MANAGER Tony Pulis is hoping for a second win over a former side in the space of a week as Middlesbrough travel to Stoke City for today’s late kick-off.
Boro are in high spirits after beating Crystal Palace in the Carabao Cup, but they will want to put an end to a patchy run of league form to keep up the relentless pace at the top of the Championship.
Two wins, two draws and a defeat in their last five games have kept Boro within touch at the top and they go into the weekend in third place. But there is a sense that they are in need of a statement win after some unconvincing recent displays.
Fans are crying out for Lewis Wing and Marcus Tavernier to be given a chance in the league and following the former’s stunning winner against Palace the 23-year-old may fancy his chances of a place in the squad.
Pulis said: “Lewis got a lot of the credit with his goal and the way he played. He deserved that.
“I actually personally thought Tav was absolutely fantastic, maybe he didn’t get the credit he deserved.
“They have got great futures, they have got to keep their feet on the ground. They have to understand they are part of the group. They have to keep pushing and pushing and pushing until they get regular places.
“They need to know what it’s all about and, when they get their chances, take them like they did the other night.”
Danny Batth will hope to keep his spot ahead of the suspended Daniel Ayala, who picked up his fifth yellow card of the season last weekend.
Sam McQueen was stretchered off with a cruciate injury against Palace and may be forced to return to parent club Southampton.
Paddy McNair could continue in place of Ryan Shotton, but several players are still feeling the effects of a bug that has gone around the squad.
Stoke are without midfielder Charlie Adam due to suspension, with Sam Clucas and Peter Etebo returning from injury .
Mame Diouf is back in first-team training, but will not feature.
Potters manager Gary Rowett expects fans to give Pulis a warm welcome on his return:
They have got great futures, they have got to keep their feet on the ground. They have to understand they are part of the group. They have to keep pushing and pushing and pushing until they get regular places.
“Tony was a legend here and so I’m sure he will get a good reception, and deservedly so because he’s been a massive part of this club’s history,” said Rowett.