With both Burnley and Brighton hovering just a point behind in third and fourth respectively, the match at Leeds United takes on extra significance.
However, Boro have failed to win any of their last four Championship matches and the pressure is starting to build in the fight for promotion to the Premier League.
Although Leeds find themselves in the bottom half of the Championship table, having lost at Nottingham Forest last weekend, it’s against this type of team, where Boro have been struggling of late. Both Milton Keynes Dons and Blackburn Rovers find themselves sitting just above the relegation zone but still managed to hold Boro to a draw in their previous two games. Prior to that, Boro went down 1-0 at home to 10th place Nottingham Forest and lost 1-0 at 21st place Bristol City.
So, it’s clear form needs to improve against teams in the wrong half of the table, starting with this game at Leeds United.
A common factor in the majority of Boro’s Championship matches since the turn of the year, has been the lack of goals. In the last five Championship matches, Boro have managed an average of 0.6 goals and this needs to improve. Having come off the bench to score the equaliser against MK Dons last time out, it might time for Jordan Rhodes to make his full debut. Daniel Ayala is working his way back to fitness but it’s unclear as to whether he will be fit to start the game but George Friend is definitely out.
A quick glance at Leeds United’s form, shows they had a great December but have struggled in 2016, winning just one of their six Championship games. However, Boro have lost in their last three visits to Elland Road but did defeat Leeds 3-0 at the Riverside early this season.
This is a huge game for Boro, not simply in terms of promotion but just to get back to winning ways. With a game in hand over third place Burnley, a win at Elland Road would see Boro back in control of the automatic promotion places. With the team struggling to score goals, Jordan Rhodes, a man who has netted over 20 goals in his last four full campaigns, has to come in to the starting XI for this match.
It could be the Scottish striker who makes the difference.