New Middlesbrough boss Tony Pulis comes up against old foe Steve Bruce in his first match in charge at the Riverside tomorrow (3pm kick-off).
Former Stoke and West Brom manager Pulis, appointed as Garry Monk’s replacement on Boxing Day, faces a tough start to his reign, with play-off rivals Aston Villa the opposition.
Boro are seventh in the Championship table following the 2-0 Boxing Day win over Bolton, ahead of faltering Villa on goal difference, with both sides three points adrift of the top six.
Pulis had his first day of training yesterday, and it will be interesting to see how the Welshman sets out his team, given the fact that they have won their last two matches to bolster ambitions of an instant promotion back to the Premier League.
The squad had morning and afternoon sessions, with Pulis helped by coach Jonathan Woodgate, who usually works with the Teessiders’ Under-18s.
Villa, beaten 2-1 at Brentford on Tuesday, have managed just three points from their last five matches.
Asked about what Villa must do to turn around their form, former Sunderland boss Bruce told avfc.co.uk: “We certainly need to get the basics right, and the basics, in a game of football, are to not make any mistakes. They keep costing us.
“In the last few weeks we’ve conceded twice every time and left ourselves needing to score three goals.
“That’s difficult to do in the Championship, so we need to get those basics right again.
“Hopefully then it will start to turn around.”
Albert Adomah looks sure to miss out on a Boro reunion following a knock to his hip against Brentford which saw him replaced after just 17 minutes.
Asked about Villa’s double header against Boro and, on Monday, Bristol City, Bruce added: “They’re both going to be tough.
“That’s what the Championship is. Let’s see what we’ve got on Saturday.”