Middlesbrough vs Sunderland predictions: Tees-Wear derby should be tight
- Middlesbrough have not scored more than one goal in any of last seven home games
- Sunderland have not scored more than one goal in any of last nine away matches
- Recommended bet: Draw
Two teams that started the season with expectations of promotion but remain outside the play-off places go head to head on Sunday when Middlesbrough entertain Sunderland at the Riverside.
Boro have won two and lost two of their last five Championship games and now lie in 11th place in the standings, although they are only four points behind Coventry in sixth, having played a game less.
The Black Cats ended a two-match losing run by beating Stoke 3-1 at the Stadium of Light last time out and are just a point outside the play-off places in seventh.
Luke Ayling, Finn Azaz and Sam Greenwood are all available for Boro after being cup-tied for the EFL Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea.
Morgan Rogers has been sold to Aston Villa and Sammy Silvera and Riley McGree are still on international duty.
Alex Bangura (hamstring), Isaiah Jones (hamstring), Emmanuel Latte Lath (ankle) and Seny Dieng (thigh) have been ruled out due to injuries.
Sunderland's new signings Romaine Mundle and Leo Hjelde are available to make their debuts but Callum Styles (appendix) will have to wait for his first appearance.
Patrick Roberts could return to the squad after injury but Elliot Embleton is still sidelined.
Nectarios Triantis, Eliezer Mayenda and Jay Matete have all been loaned out for the rest of the season.
Both teams have scored in Middlesbrough's last four Championship games.
Sunderland have won just one of their last nine away games.
There have been under 2.5 goals in seven of Sunderland's last eight Championship road games.
Sunderland have won just one of the last nine meetings between the teams.
Both teams have scored in only three of Sunderland's last 10 games.
Middlesbrough have the same record at home and away in the league this season, with six wins, two draws and two defeats in each.
The Tees-Wear derby takes centre stage in the Championship on Sunday and it is likely to be a much closer encounter than the teams' first meeting this season.
Middlesbrough left the Stadium of Light with a memorable 4-0 victory in the first derby in October, when Sunderland's Dan Neill was sent off at the end of a goalless first half.
Boro smashed in four goals in the final 32 minutes of the game against the Black Cats but the opposite had happened in the previous league derby which Sunderland won 2-0 after Boro's Dael Fry was dismissed with the scores level last January.
If all 22 players can stay on the pitch this time, there may not be much to choose between the teams, who are separated by only three points in the league table.
Middlesbrough have a game in hand on Sunderland who entered the weekend games four places above them in seventh.
Michael Carrick's team no longer have the distraction of their long Carabao Cup run and they have had a chance to refresh and reset having not played since their 6-1 defeat in the second leg of their semi-final against Chelsea on January 23.
They have lost some of their firepower, though, after selling star winger Morgan Rogers to Aston Villa and they have hardly been prolific scorers in any case, failing to score more than one goal in any of their last seven home games.
The same can be said for Sunderland, who are also stronger defensively than going forward with seven of their last eight away league games ending with no more than two goals scored.
A 1-1 or goalless draw look solid options for correct-score backers, but a straight bet on the draw, available at 12/5 with LiveScore Bet, looks to offer plenty of value.
Boro are far from dominant at the Riverside, having lost as many as they have won in the Championship, but Sunderland have won only four of their 14 away league matches and it is quite possible that neither side will win this game either.
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