Boro have a chance

Middlesbrough kept their Play-Off hopes alive with last week’s 2-1 win over Reading – just as importantly, Derby are one rather than three points ahead of them after a 1-1 draw at Swansea the following Wednesday.

Boro only had 38ession against Reading but they pressed very well and created far better chances, showing that Tony Pulis has a 3-4-3 template he can trust in this final game – and possibly beyond.

With four central midfielders across the middle, rather than two midfielders and two wide men, they have the wherewithal to close down their opponents collectively.

Auxiliary wing-backs Jonny Howson and George Saville are comfortable coming inside and supporting the pressing system, which means opposing teams find it that bit harder to play their way out of trouble.

The Teessiders are not without quality, too, with Saville producing some crisp inside passes and Howson coming up with pin-point crosses from deep.

The target for those deliveries is often Ashley Fletcher, who might not have the best goalscoring record himself but his power, athleticism, and strength of leap means that he puts in some strong challenges for aerial duels, which can create that extra half-yard of space for Britt Assombalonga’s incisive finishing.


Gallant effort from Rotherham

Rotherham United’s 2-1 loss at West Brom last week mathematically confirmed their relegation to League One.

On a human level, there is much to admire about what they have given to the Championship in 2018-19.

Since the disastrous 2016-17 campaign, Paul Warne has transformed the mood in the camp by recruiting the right characters, as well as showing a unique ability to connect people by getting into their hearts.

Warne has the humility to admit his own vulnerabilities and engage with the emotional aspect of football – a modern form of masculinity and management that few have gone with previously – and it is those galvanizing qualities that have enabled Rotherham to make as big a fight of their Championship status as they have.

The Millers play with passion, energy, a willingness to put the ball into the box at every opportunity and a determination to launch every attack as if it were their last.

Ultimately, though, they have just about come up short – understandable, considering that just five of the 14 players who featured last time out had played in more than one game in English football’s top two divisions before 2018.

They have taken the seventh-most shots per game in the Championship (608) but the seventh-fewest goals (51), giving them an 8.3{2145621b26fc9aaf9f712205cef9de9b6b89ae8741f566ab7f58c50f0e39ac2a} conversion rate that points to a lack of quality in finishing.

Equally, they have been let down slightly by one or two moments of defensive naivety – had they a Championship-proven centre-back to partner Clark Robertson, the season might have gone slightly differently.

However, the Millers’ games are always very entertaining and their relegation represents something of a loss to the Championship – fine-tune details at both ends next season though and they should be a force in League One.


How will it pan out?

18 of Middlesbrough’s 19 league victories in 2018/19 have come in a match with fewer than four goals scored – the one exception being the 3-2 win at a West Brom side possessing far more quality than Rotherham.

Pulis’ teams rarely look to expand on their leads, they are typically content to sit and protect.

There is an intriguingly generous 19.6{2145621b26fc9aaf9f712205cef9de9b6b89ae8741f566ab7f58c50f0e39ac2a} disparity in the implied probability for BetVictor’s offering of the outright Boro win and the Boro win with Under 3.5 goals scored.

It is the latter bet, therefore, that we will take on at 31/20.

Tip: Middlesbrough to win and Under 3.5 goals

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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