AS much as it can be dangerous to make predictions in the Championship, Middlesbrough manager Tony Pulis is adamant about one thing.
It is unlikely, in his opinion, that a team will run away with automatic promotion.
Despite an at times up-and-down season, marked by inconsistency on home soil in particular, Pulis’s side find themselves well placed in fifth spot – eight points behind leaders Leeds United with 19 games of the season to go.
With Norwich City, Sheffield United and West Brom firmly in the promotion shake-up and a host of clubs pushing for the top six, the competitiveness at the sharp end of the table is set to increase a notch or two ahead of the run-in in the view of the experienced manager.
As for Boro’s own hopes, he believes they will hinge on a combination of form and transfer developments between now and the closure of the window on January 31.
Pulis said: “We have had a good run of results, but everything will be dictated over the next couple of weeks. If we can bring a couple in then that will help us push on.
It is a tough league with some very good teams and it will be very competitive right to the end. I cannot see anyone breaking away for it and the next couple of weeks will be big for the club.Tony Pulis
“It is a tough league with some very good teams and it will be very competitive right to the end. I cannot see anyone breaking away for it and the next couple of weeks will be big for the club.”
Today’s game pits together two teams with clear footballing and working-class identities, according to Pulis, who is full of respect for the job done by Millwall counterpart Neil Harris.
Harris’s Lions side were a firm play-off candidate on their last visit to Teesside in the Spring, only for a defeat effectively to end their season.
Millwall’s pertinent issues currently revolve around keeping out of relegation trouble, but Pulis expects them to pick up.
He added: “They have a very good manager and assistant who are steeped in the tradition of Millwall.
“They are the right people to manage that club and have great respect from the supporters at the side and people around them.
“They have good players and it is a little bit of a surprise that they have not done as well as what they can do, but there is half a season to go yet.”