Rudy Gestede will return to Bournemouth hoping to kick-start Middlesbrough’s Premier League revival by ending his 43-game wait for three points.
The Teessiders have managed only four league wins all season and, as a result, find themselves six points adrift of safety with as many games remaining.
Gestede, a £6m January arrival from Aston Villa, has made 11 league appearances for the club and is yet to finish on the winning side. His last taste of top-flight victory came on the opening day of the 2015-16 season when he scored the only goal for Villa in a 1-0 win at Bournemouth, some 43 fixtures ago.
Boro’s interim head coach, Steve Agnew, said: “We’d love Rudy to score – we’d love any one of the players to score the winning goal for us on Saturday. Rudy has been really good from day one, he’s a top professional. He works ever so hard every day, he’s always asking for extra work on whatever part of his game he needs to improve on.
“Rudy is fully focused, like the rest of the players.”
Boro have not won in the league since they beat Swansea 3-0 on December 17, a run of 15 games which has yielded just six points.
Yes, you need to be hard to beat and continue to be difficult to beat, but equally you need a goal to take the three points.Middlesbrough interim head coach, Steve Agnew
Their worsening plight ultimately cost Aitor Karanka his job and while Agnew has been encouraged by an improvement in his team’s performance levels since he took over, the trip to Bournemouth and Sunderland’s visit to the Riverside Stadium next Wednesday evening are likely to be pivotal with Manchester City, Chelsea, Southampton and Liverpool waiting in the wings.
Agnew said: “They have all been big weeks over this period, so of course it is a big week and, of course, it’s a massive game. But you have to enjoy it and that’s the only way I know, that’s what the players and staff know.
“They are all relishing the game on Saturday. You do need wins and that’s what we have missed, and that’s what we need from now on in.
“Yes, you need to be hard to beat and continue to be difficult to beat, but equally you need a goal to take the three points.”