Manchester City will look to enhance their top four prospects when they travel to the Riverside Stadium to face relegation battlers Middlesbrough on Sunday afternoon.
Pep Guardiola’s side are a point above rivals Manchester United in fourth place after their derby draw on Thursday, and the Spaniard will know any slip-ups from now could let their rivals in.
Middlesbrough’s situation couldn’t be more polar opposite, currently staring immediate relegation back to the Championship in the face with a six-point deficit to safety.
Middlesbrough ended their miserable run of form with their first win of the calendar year against bottom side and Tees-Wear rivals Sunderland during the week to boost their slim survival hopes.
This victory ended their wretched run of 16 Premier League games without a win – including ten defeats – and leaves them six points adrift of safety with four games left to play.
Yet with Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Southampton still to face before the end of the season, things are still looking bleak for Middlesbrough’s hopes of top flight football next season.
At the other end of the table, a frustrating stalemate in the Manchester derby during the week now means that City have only won two of their previous seven Premier League matches.
Defeat against Chelsea, followed by draws against United, Liverpool and Arsenal, has stalled Guardiola’s top four intentions and allowed both their Manchester rivals and the Gunners back in.
Middlesbrough interim manager Steve Agnew looks set to name an unchanged side from the team that beat Sunderland on Wednesday, with Christhian Stuani retaining his place in the side.
Match-winner against their local rivals after his goal inside the opening ten minutes, Dutch midfielder Marten de Roon should be fit enough to retain his starting spot after picking up a small knock.
For Pep Guardiola’s side, John Stones and Fernandinho will be available after short spells on the side-line and David Silva – injured in the FA Cup semi-final – is in line for a return at the Riverside.
Gabriel Jesus is also in contention to be given his first start after returning from injury late on in the derby, with Guardiola giving Aguero a rest after his exploits against Manchester United.
Match Prediction: Middlesbrough 0-3 Manchester City
When these two sides met at the Riverside Stadium for their FA Cup sixth-round tie in March it was a comfortable win for City on that occasion, and something similar could be expected this time round.
Although the hosts will have an edge of confidence about them after beating Sunderland in a crucial bottom of the table clash during the week, it’s unlikely that they will provide much of a test for City.
With the top four race entering the business end and Manchester City still in with more than a good chance after avoiding defeat in the Manchester derby, Guardiola will now want to build up some form.
A trip to the Riverside is the perfect place to return to winning ways, and with their rivals circling below them the Citizens should have more than enough firepower for a weak Middlesbrough side to handle.