Championship Tuesday – Preston North End v Middlesbrough

As mentioned in both the weekly Power Rankings and a look at the Week 15 slate, Championship clubs are playing twice this week. In the spirit of that, I will be highlighting a “Match of the Day” from three of the days with multiple matches.

Up first, the Tuesday match featuring the clubs with lowest combined rating is Preston North End hosting Middlesbrough at Deepdale. Both clubs are in the midst of unbeaten stretches – Preston North End hasn’t lost in eight matches (4-4-0), while Middlesbrough hasn’t lost in six (3-3-0). Will the match extend these streaks for both clubs, or will one come out on top?

Let’s take a look at the clubs:

The Records

Preston North End has gone 5-6-7 on the season with a -1 goal differential, and have had more success at home. They are 4-3-2 at home with a +7 GD, and only 1-3-5 on the road with a -8 GD. Preston has 21 points based on these results, and is currently in 16th in the league (13th in our power rankings).

Middlesbrough has gone 9-7-2 with a +12 GD, with a home record of 5-3-1 (+7 GD) and a 4-4-1 (+5 GD) on the road. This has been good for 34 points and a second place standing in the league table (and in our power rankings).

Opponents in Common

We’re fortunate this late in the season that of the 18 matches each team has played, they have 14 opponents in common. And in those 14 matches, Middlesbrough has performed much better.

Middlesbrough has a 6-7-1 record in those 14 matches, while Preston North End has gone 3-5-6. Both clubs lost to top club Norwich City, and shared victories against Brentford, Bristol City, and Wigan Athletic. But Boro also managed to pick up wins against other top clubs West Bromwich Albion and Sheffield United, matches that Preston lost.

Club Strengths & Weaknesses

Middlesbrough has surrendered a league-low nine goals on the season (0.50 per match), which is seven goals better than second-place Nottingham Forest. This has allowed them to accumulate 11 clean sheets, all from keeper Darren Randolph.

The strong back end has allowed Boro to find success without scoring much, and their 21 goals is tied for 14th place with two other clubs in the league in that stat, behind clubs much lower than them in the standings, including Preston North End.

Preston North End, on the other hand, has surrendered the second most goals in the league, behind only former Dark Horse Sheffield Wednesday’s 32. This has necessitated a lot of scoring to not get totally lost in the shuffle, and the club has scored the 5th most goals on the season, though they still do have that -1 goal differential. Winger Callum Robinson has led the club with eight goals (and two assists) in 17 appearances, while playing 87.9% of available league minutes (1,424 of 1,620) for the club.

How I See It

Middlesbrough hasn’t lost to Preston North End in the last 12 matches in all competitions, and won last season’s match up at Deepdale 3-2. Though Preston has the longer unbeaten streak entering this match, Middlesbrough has been much more consistent over the course of the season, and I don’t expect that to be any different in this one.

I expect to see another clean sheet from Darren Randolph for Middlesbrough, with someone on the Middlesbrough offense – perhaps Britt Assombalonga (five goals) – punching one through to pick up the three points. Middlesbrough has only won five of their matches this season by more than one goal, but Preston could be the team that lets them add the sixth.

My prediction: Preston North End 0 – 2 Middlesbrough

Until next time…

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