Middlesbrough v Southampton
Venue: Riverside Stadium
Kick off: 3pm
Middlesbrough will be forced to continue without Victor Valdes and Gaston Ramirez for their penultimate top-flight fixture.
Boro have not enjoyed a happy return to the Premier League, and their slim survival hopes were ended earlier this week after a 3-0 Monday Night Football defeat by Chelsea.
Speaking on Thursday, caretaker boss Steve Agnew revealed that relegation had been “difficult” to accept an immediate return to the Championship, though he admitted his side “haven’t done enough” to retain their Premier League berth.
“We have to move on very quickly. We know where we’re at, and we have two massive games to come. We have to finish the season strongly,” Agnew added.
Southampton lost 2-0 to Arsenal earlier this week and are without a win since April 8, but they have passed the 40-point milestone and boss Claude Puel has called on his men to end their winless run at the Riverside.
Aside from Valdes (rib) and Ramirez (pelvis), Agnew has no fresh injury concerns ahead of Saints’ visit. Defender Daniel Ayala is back in training after an ankle injury, but his appearance in today’s matchday squad is doubtful.
Puel confirmed in his pre-match press conference on Friday that he too has no further absentees occupying his mind. Long-term absentees Charlie Austin (shoulder) and Matt Targett (hamstring) are both back in training and with three games in eight days, the Saints boss could be tempted to utilise his returning squad members.
Middlesbrough have won only one of their last five home Premier League fixtures against the Saints (D1 L3), though this is the first meeting since March 2005.
The Saints, 1-0 winners over Middlesbrough in the reverse fixture, are looking to do a top-flight double over their opponents for the first time since the 1996/97 campaign.
Southampton have won three of their last six Premier League away games, having won just two of their previous 12 on the road this season.
Middlesbrough Possible XI: Guzan, Fabio, Chambers, Gibson, Friend, Leadbitter, Clayton, De Roon, Traore, Negredo, Downing.
Southampton Possible XI: Forster, Soares, Stephens, Yoshida, Bertrand, Davis, Romeu, Redmond, Tadic, Boufal, Gabbiadini.