VICTORY is highly important for both clubs today but for vastly different reasons.
Having at one stage been vying for an automatic promotion place, Middlesbrough will now struggle to even make the play-offs.
Hosts Wolves, however, are in a far worse predicament, being next to bottom of the Championship with just 42 points from 38 games.
Boro chief Tony Mowbray remains convinced that his side can still achieve a top-six finish even though they are five points adrift of Leicester City, who occupy the final play-off place, with just eight games remaining.
Mowbray has few injury concerns while Carl Ikeme, Bakary Sako and Dave Edwards all miss out for Dean Saunders’s side.
Mowbray, whose side face another of the strugglers in Peterborough on Tuesday, said: “We have for the first time in a long time a near fully-fit squad and let’s see if we can utilise those assets to try and get a positive end to the season.”
But he admitted: “Every time we don’t get the result we want, the next game becomes that much more critical.
“While we have an opportunity to finish in the top six, we have to remain positive. We have to believe we can do it and keep going.”
Josh McEachran’s sore ankle sustained while in action for England Under-21s will be assessed today but Emmanuel Ledesma will not feature due to a similar problem.
Goalkeeper Dorus De Vries is set for what will be his first league start of the season for Wolves.
He replaced Ikeme when the first-choice, who could miss the remainder of the season, broke his hand punching a dressing room tactics board at half-time in Wanderers’ 2-1 win over Bristol City last time out, having earlier conceded a bizarre own goal.
To make matters worse, Saunders had already lost star winger Sako (hamstring) and midfielder Edwards (metatarsal) against the Robins, and both are facing at least six weeks on the sidelines.
Left-back Stephen Ward returns from suspension and Wigan winger Nouha Dicko and goalkeeper Marian Kello, a free agent, are also available to make their debuts having arrived on Thursday.
Last six games: Wolves LLDWLW, Middlesbrough LLWLLL.
Last time: Wolves 1, Middlesbrough 2; January 24, 2009; FA Cup.
Referee: A Bates (Staffs).