Middlesbrough boss Tony Pulis fires a warning to Aston Villa and Bristol City ahead of play-off battle
Tony Pulis has warned Middlesbrough's play-off rivals that his side are ready to embrace the challenge of securing a top six place.
A slump in results has seen Boro fall out of the play-off places and, having occupied them for most of the season, Pulis is relishing the opportunity to displace Aston Villa and Bristol City - who currently occupy the final two positions in the top six.
"That [battling for the play-offs] is going to be the situation, we've got to embrace it and look forward to the challenge," he said.
"We've got five massive games coming up and the next one is important against Hull."
And the Teessiders will have the chance to continue their play-off push when they host Hull City on Saturday - a side who themselves still hold faint play-off aspirations after some fine form of late.
Pulis is under no illusions as to the test the Tigers will pose, and has singled out one player in particular who Boro will have to watch carefully on home soil.
"They're dangerous, they've got players up front who can score goals and the wide players," added the Boro manager.
"[Kamil] Grosicki is a dangerous player for them, and you hear Lewandowski on how important he has been.
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"It will be nice to see Nigel [Adkins, Hull manager] on Saturday - he's someone I've known for a long time."
But closer to home, Pulis is keen to see his side address what has become a concerning lack of goals.
Only three sides in the second tier have scored less than Middlesbrough - and the manager admits their lack of profligacy is becoming a growing concern.
"I've been concerned with us in the final third," he admitted.
"It's not just the forwards - it's the two centre halves, the midfielders, it's a joint effort.
"If we weren't creating the chance and opportunities, then you'd be concerned. But we have created them.
"We've got to play through the pitch and we need to be more clinical.
"We've played well enough, created chances, but we haven't been as clinical as we hoped. That's been the situation since I came in."