The Tony Pulis derby is the best type of derby.
Our Friday night Championship fixture sees Tony Pulis’ Middlesbrough welcome his former side West Bromwich Albion to the Riverside. Boro have enjoyed a blistering start to the league season – winning three of their opening four matches and drawing the other – but face a West Brom side who have scored 13 league goals in their opening four.
These two teams have very real promotion aspirations, and the respective managers will not want to suffer an early setback at the hands of a top-of-the-table rival.
The Baggies have recovered from their opening day 2-1 home defeat to Bolton; most recently disposing of a dreadful QPR side 7-1 at The Hawthorns, giving them a huge confidence boost going into this much trickier tie.
Pulis will want to make The Riverside a fortress this season, though West Brom will travel there with no fear. Boro are slight favourites, but I’m backing Darren Moore’s men to earn a good point.
Middlesbrough v West Brom
Middlesbrough have kept three consecutive clean sheets, but I see that run ending on Friday. The Baggies’ main man is Jay Rodriguez – who has netted four times in the league already – and he holds the key to West Brom’s chances in this one.
Martin Braithwaite has scored three league goals for Boro and is their own tormentor-in-chief. Giant centre-back Aden Flint is also a big threat from set pieces, and Darren Moore’s side would do well to keep an eye on him.
Boro’s defence is strong, but West Brom’s team contains plenty of firepower. Both teams to score is a definite possibility.
Middlesbrough v West Brom [Both Teams To Score]
My final bet is something of an outside shot, but I’m backing West Brom to score first. They conceded first in their first three matches, but you simply cannot underestimate the positive effect a recent crushing victory has on a team.
Most people are expecting Boro to have the edge here, but I’m putting down West Brom’s ever-so-slightly slow start to life in the second tier as simple ‘Championship acclimatisation’, so The Baggies to score first is my final tip for this Friday night fixture.
Tip: West Brom
Middlesbrough v West Brom [Team To Score First]
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