Middlesbrough v Stoke City - ‘Special’ reunion will not distract Pulis

Tony Pulis, the Middlesbrough manager, admits any meeting with former club Stoke City is a “special occasion”.

Middlesbrough manager Tony Pulis

The Potters, despite being favourites for the Championship title with the bookmakers in pre-season, have little but pride to play for at the Riverside.

Boro, however, are firmly back in contention for the play-offs following back-to-back wins and sit just a point adrift of sixth-placed Bristol City, albeit having played a game more.

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It means Pulis is desperate to claim all three points against the club where he had to two spells in charge.

“This one is special and I have got a lot of time for (Stoke owner) Peter Coates and the family there,” said the Boro chief.

“He was a fantastic chairman for me at such a young age and he is such a special person. The football club is in really good hands with the way the family look after it – similar to how Steve (Gibson) does here.”

Daniel Ayala (knee ligaments) and Dael Fry (torn hamstring) are both out for the season, handing Pulis a defensive headache due to already being without George Friend for the run-in.

“The important thing is concentrate on what we can do,” said the 61-year-old, whose second stint in charge at Stoke brought Premier League football to the Potteries. He said: “We have got four games left, the next game is the most important. It is tough against one of my former clubs.”

Last six games: Middlesbrough LLLLWW, Stoke City DDDWLD.

Referee: D Bond (Lancashire).

Last time: Middlesbrough 1 Stoke City 1; August 13, 2016; Premier League.