Sunderland vs Middlesbrough predictions: Boro can edge entertaining Tees-Wear derby
- Sunderland have lost four of their last six games at home
- Middlesbrough have won seven of their previous eight in the Championship
- Recommended Bet: Boro to win and both teams to score
Middlesbrough will look to strengthen their position in the Championship play-offs when they travel to the Stadium of Light to face Sunderland on Sunday afternoon.
Michael Carrick's side are fourth in the table, and could end the weekend in third if results go their way.
Even though Sunderland are six places behind Boro, a win would take them to within one point of the visitors — such is the competitiveness of the Championship.
Sunderland go into Sunday's game on the back of a 3-1 defeat to Swansea City at the Stadium of Light, although their game-plan last weekend was ruined by Luke O'Nien's early red card.
With O'Nien serving a suspension this week, centre-back Danny Batth is expected to return to the heart of Sunderland's defence.
Sunderland boss Tony Mowbray is unlikely to make further changes to his team, barring any late injury worries.
Boro coach Carrick will likely do the same and stick with the same XI that beat Millwall 1-0 at the Riverside Stadium last weekend.
January signing Cameron Archer will have to settle for a place on the bench, while Darragh Lenihan remains the only long-term absentee.
Sunday's meeting between Sunderland and Middlesbrough will be the first between the pair at the Stadium of Light since February 2018, so there is little to draw from the head-to-head stats, although Boro won the reverse fixture in September.
Mowbray's men have been struggling at home of late, having won just two and losing four of their last six games in front of their own supporters.
The Black Cats will need to be at their best to stop Carrick's troops, who have only lost one of their last five games, and that 5-1 defeat came in the FA Cup to Brighton.
In the Championship, Boro have lost just one of their last 10 games — to league leaders Burnley in December — while they have drawn one other and won eight, with Carrick having taken little time to get the best out of his squad.
Any derby match can be unpredictable, and there will be no love lost between the two sides on Sunday afternoon.
But with Boro having won four on the spin in the Championship to surge into play-off contention, it is hard to overlook them across the 90 minutes, although they are not watertight at the back.
Carrick's side have only kept one clean sheet on their travels all season, which should give Sunderland some hope of finding the back of the net.
Mowbray's men are not shy in front of goal at home either, with Sunderland netting seven goals in their last four at the Stadium of Light.