Middlesbrough will be playing ‘the best team in the division’ when they take on red-hot Brentford at the Riverside (Sat, KO 3pm).
The Bees are four points behind leaders Norwich with a game in hand but Boro boss Neil Warnock believes they are the best balanced and most potent of the pair.
“For me they are the best team in the league right now,” said the Boro boss. “They have gone 19 games unbeaten. That is some going in the Championship.
“They are a really good, exciting team. They have goals from everywhere and in Ivan Toney they have the best striker in the division.”
But Warnock is relishing the challenge. Last week he took his team to table-topping Norwich and but for some squandered chances could have pulled off a coupon-busting win in a game that instead finished 0-0.
“We won’t dwell on that,” said Warnock. “It was a great game for us. We did well. And I think we can do well against Brentford too. It will be a hard battle for us but it will be for them too.”
Warnock has been boosted by a successful end to the transfer window.
He snapped up Yannick Bolasie from Everton last week and blooded him at Norwich then on deadline day brought in free agent Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, who he had when at Cardiff, and loan signing Neeskens Kabano from Fulham.
That will boost his options in the final third, an area where Boro have been sorely lacking this term.
“I’m delighted,” he said. “I think it was a very good window for us if I’m honest.
“I’m looking forward to the second half of the season now. We had a good squad and a capable one but we never quite had enough to really change a game but I think we do now.”
Mendez-Laing is well short of match fitness, having not played since being mysterious sacked by Cardiff for “a serious breach of contract” five months ago but Bolasie shook off some rust last week and Kabano has featured 10 times for Fulham but mainly from the bench.
“Nathaniel is not ready and won’t be for a while,” said Warnock when asked when Boro fans would see them unleashed. “Yannick played last week and did well but is probably still short fitness wise and Kabano has only trained with us once but we’ll see.”
Warnock is without injured wideman Marcus Tavernier and also has a fitness doubt over defender Dael Fry who limped off at Norwich. he has since returned to training. Fit again Grant Hall will stand by if Fry fails a fitness test.
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