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Preview: Blues v Middlesbrough

I think it's very important that we don't allow them to feel comfortable on the pitch. We want to be our ourselves as well because we have a lot of confidence in the football, we're developing to carry it on.

Pep Clotet.

Our full match preview ahead of tonight's Sky Bet Championship fixture between Blues and Boro at the St. Andrew's Trillion Trophy Stadium (7.45pm kick-off)...

Pep Clotet asked if he thought a positive result was just around the corner, with Blues having narrowly lost their last three games...
"We have not lost confidence because these performances have given us a good step forward for ourselves and for the work that we do - and we know we are on the right track. We know that we come from a very solid start, sitting in a good position, we have three more points than last season and we have a lot of confidence because we made a good start after so many years. But are we happy with our position or happy with the results of the last three games? Of course not. We are not happy at all that those results are not good."

Pep Clotet asked if he was under increasing pressure because of those three defeats...
"No, no, I put myself under increasing pressure to win because I think we have the ability in this club to not only bounce back - to turn results. Stoke at home, we were close to completely turning the result at Derby. I don't feel any kind of pressure from the club or any part of it - we are all very aware where we come from, all the work we had to put in the summer, how the situation was. We are focused on the fact that still the team managed to do the best start in 11 years, we are four points off the play-offs, we have more points than last season. I think it is a moment where we all need to sit down, calm down and focus a lot on trying to get the result against Middlesbrough. It's a long league, 46 games, every team has set-backs, challenges like this, it's about how we overcome them. Otherwise it's only about putting more problems on a team that just wants to play football and win games."

Pep Clotet on what he is expecting from Middlesbrough...
"Middlesbrough are a team that has a lot of quality at the front and back. They also have good pace in the midfield and a high work rate, and on their day they can cause you a lot of problems. I'm expecting a team that will be tough to play against not only because they're a good team, but as well because it's full of really good players and they have the ability to score goals. I think it's very important that we don't allow them to feel comfortable on the pitch. We want to be our ourselves as well because we have a lot of confidence in the football we're developing to carry it on."

Pep Clotet on the threat posed by Boro striker Britt Assombalonga who has scored six times in his last seven appearances against Blues...
"We analyse how he gets free and what kind of actions he does. And we work with the players to make sure we play the way that we minimise the effect that players like him can have. Everyone team does that, but because they are good players, they still make a difference and make goals. When we are near the box, we need to be aware of them.  He has the ability to score goals, he scored against us last season, he is quick, has pace and an eye for goal, we have to be very aware of him."

Boro Manager Jonathan Woodgate's comments ahead of the game...
“Of course, I'm disappointed, I wanted more points than we've got at the moment. I want to win every game but that's not possible. I want to get more points on the board as soon as possible. That's where we are. The table hasn't settled down, there's a long, long way to go. You string a few wins together and you'll start shooting up the table. Sometimes you've just got to get results, sometimes it can't be nice and pretty, sometimes you've just got to grind it out.” Turning specifically to Blues he continued: “They’ve got big Jutkiewicz who is a threat up front who I played with at Middlesbrough and he’s a real handful. They’ve got some good players, Danny Crowley in midfield. They are a direct team so it’s going to be a tough game, we need to stand up and be counted.”

Blues team news...
Marc Roberts is available after recovering from the slight thigh strain that saw him miss the Wigan game on Tuesday. Jacques Maghoma is also back in contention after being rested for the trip to the DW Stadium. Jefferson Montero (thigh), Maikel Kieftenbeld (knee) and goalkeeper Connal Trueman (knee) remain unavailable. Ex-Brentford midfielder Josh McEachran is eligible to play having signed a two-year deal with the Club last Friday but will not be considered until after the international break.

Boro team news...
Boro will be without the services of George Friend, Hayden Coulson and Rudy Gestede because of injury. Former Blues players Ryan Shotton and Darren Randolph are expected to start for the visitors.

Last five meetings between Blues v Boro...
Championship 12 Jan 2019 Blues 1 Boro 2
Championship 11 Aug 2018 Boro 1 Blues 0
Championship 06 Mar 2018 Blues 0 Boro 1
Championship 22 Nov 2017 Boro 2 Blues 0
Championship 29 Apr 2016 Blues 2 Boro 2

Total meetings between Blues and Boro ...
Blues wins: 44
Draws: 35
Boro wins: 36

Line-ups last league game...
Wigan v Blues (4-4-2): Camp, Colin, Pedersen, Dean, Clarke-Salter (Bellingham 83), Crowley (Mrabti 66), Sunjic, Gary Gardner, Villalba (Bailey 73), Jutkiewicz, Gimenez.
Subs (not used): Stockdale, Harding, Davis, Bajrami.

Boro (4-3-3) v Preston: Randolph, Dijksteel, Ayala (c), Shotton, Fry, Tavernier, Clayton, Assombalonga (Fletcher, 80), M Browne (M Johnson, 80) Howson, McNair.
Subs (not used): Saville, Wing, Bola, Walker, Pears.

BluesTV...
BluesTV will be streaming the match live to International Subscribers. Those in the Great Britain and Ireland can get exclusive audio commentary. Commentary will be provided by Jonathan Bell and former Blues forward Dele Adebola. In the studio will be ex-Blues captain Kevan broadhurst alongside Dale Moon. For more details about BluesTV, click here.

Match officials...
Jeremy Simpson will take charge of tonight's game. So far this season the Lancashire-based official has refereed five games, where he has produced a total of 11 yellow cards and one red. The last Blues game he refereed was our Sky Bet Championship away fixture against Ipswich Town in April 2019. That match ended in a 1-1 draw and there were six players cautioned; including David Davis for the visitors. Mr Simpson has taken charge of 10 Blues games in total, three of which we have won, four we have drawn and three we have lost. The last Middlesbrough game he refereed was their Championship home fixture against Brentford in March 2019. Boro lost that match 2-1 and six players were cautioned; including Daniel Ayala, John Obi Mikel, Jonny Howson, Jordan Hugill and Britt Assombalonga for the hosts. Of the 10 Boro games he has refereed, they have won five, drawn one and lost four of them. Mr Simpson will be assisted on Friday by Michael George and Nigel Lugg, with Matthew Donohue acting as the fourth official.

Tickets...
This match has been designated as a 'Kids for a quid' fixture, with Under-16s paying just £1 to attend. For full prices and purchasing details, click here.

Supporter message...
The Club urges all supporters to be responsible in their behaviour and actions. Birmingham City knows that the overwhelming majority of our supporters do not indulge in anti-social activities and are passionate about the players and the Club. We appreciate this. We adopt a zero-tolerance stance on anti-social behaviour and spectator misconduct. This includes - amongst other things - drunkenness, throwing of missiles and use and carrying of pyrotechnics (flares, smoke bombs), racist and/or homophobic chanting. Pitch encroachment is forbidden and against the law. Please DO NOT encroach onto the pitch. Any person found to be encroaching on the pitch will automatically be served with a banning order - regardless of the circumstances. It is important that bottles, coins, flares and other items not thrown at our matches. Again, we would like to thank the overwhelming majority of supporters for their backing and their understanding.

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