Middlesbrough will take the long trip down to the South Coast on Saturday afternoon looking to keep their Premier League survival hopes alive against Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth.
Without a win in 16 Premier League games and six points adrift of safety with only six games to play in the current season, anything less than three points on Saturday could prove fatal for the visitors.
The Cherries, on the other hand, sit seven points clear of the relegation spots and could all-but secure their top-flight status with a win at the hands of struggling Middlesbrough.
See below for The Boot Room’s comprehensive preview of a huge clash at the bottom of the table.
The only team in the Premier League without a victory in their last nine games – Middlesbrough’s winless run extends back to December – it’s not been an easy ride for head coach Steve Agnew.
Three 0-0 draws since the middle of February have summed up their entire season; disciplined and miserly at the back, but struggling to find the goals at the other end to win many matches.
Defeats to relegation rivals Crystal Palace and Hull damaged their survival credentials hugely over the past two months but they showed a slight resolve in the narrow defeat to Arsenal on Monday.
Bournemouth have continued their erratic run of form this season, going on a five-match unbeaten in March – including credible away draws at both Old Trafford and Anfield – but consecutive heavy losses to Chelsea and Tottenham have brought the Cherries back down to Earth.
Seven points clear of Swansea City in the relegation spots at the moment, with basement boys Sunderland still to play, Eddie Howe’s side should have enough to secure their survival this season.
For the hosts, the big team news from the week is that on-loan midfielder Jack Wilshere is ruled out for the rest of the season after suffering a hairline leg fracture during the defeat to Tottenham.
This paves the way for 20-year-old Lewis Cook to make only his second start of the season, with the central midfielder coming on as a substitute for Wilshere at White Hart Lane last weekend.
Middlesbrough could be set to start Adama Traore at the Vitality after he impressed after coming on during the second-half against Arsenal, replacing Marten de Roon on the right-wing.
Ex-Manchester United and Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes could also return in the place of Brad Guzan, whilst George Friend is expected to make only his third appearance since January after injury.
Match Prediction: Bournemouth 1-2 Middlesbrough
During their 2-1 defeat to Arsenal on Monday night, Middlesbrough actually showed some fight that hasn’t been seen at the Riverside this season, pushing the top four hopefuls all the way to the end.
Yet their inability to be clinical inside the area – both Daniel Ayala and Ben Gibson should have scored from set-pieces – cost them once again, and it’s this lack of goals that could send them down.
There’s no better place to go to than Bournemouth to find the back of the net, however, with the hosts conceding the third-worst (63) amount of goals in the league this season, and if Middlesbrough are to stand any chance whatsoever of remaining in the Premier League then they need to push for a win.
With the visitors desperately needing three points it could transpire to be an extremely open game at the Vitality on Saturday, and it’s not out of the question that Boro keep themselves in the hunt a little longer.