STEVE AGNEW will warn his players not to expect an easy afternoon by the seaside even if they will face a Bournemouth team sitting in a much healthier position than Middlesbrough this weekend.
The Boro head coach is expected to be without Fabio da Silva with the knee injury he picked up against Arsenal on Monday, while striker Rudy Gestede also hobbled away from the Riverside Stadium that night.
Goalkeeper Victor Valdes is being monitored with the rib injury that ruled him out of the Gunners test, although defender Calum Chambers should be available for the long trip to the Vitality Stadium for the first time since February.
Loading article content
Bournemouth sit 11 points clear of Middlesbrough at this late stage of the season and they also have a seven point advantage over the relegation zone, despite losing their last two games to Chelsea and Tottenham.
The back-to-back reversals have led to Bournemouth’s players admitting publicly they are taking nothing for granted and they view the visit of struggling Middlesbrough as the ideal fixture to boost the fight to beat the drop.
Bournemouth’s defender Adam Smith said: “We are absolutely in a relegation fight, we have to get to 40 points, at least.
"Everyone at the club knows that and we will be working hard to get there as quickly as possible in the next few games.
"We were happy with the draws at Manchester United and Liverpool. Even at Southampton, it was a really good point. We have done alright recently and there are plenty of positive things we can take from this run.
"Our past three games have all been against tough teams but we have to look forward to the next five now. They are all big for us and we have to get some wins.”
Bournemouth have 35 points and have played a game more than Middlesbrough. Agnew, realistically, is more focused on catching Hull and Swansea, but beating Bournemouth is essential ahead of next Wednesday’s visit of Sunderland to Teesside.
Agnew said: “Every game is crucial, like the Arsenal game was crucial, Bournemouth is crucial, and that's what we will do. We will prepare for Bournemouth and go down there with plenty of confidence.”
If Middlesbrough can somehow end a run of 15 matches without a victory by winning back-to-back dates with Bournemouth and Sunderland then they will have given their fight to stay up a real boost ahead of a tough run-in.
Bournemouth are one of three teams that have been credited with an interest in signing Middlesbrough’s Marten de Roon in the summer.
The £12m buy from Atalanta has enjoyed a decent first season in the Premier League, which has earned him a call-up to the Holland squad.
Watford and Southampton are the other two top-flight clubs believed to be keeping an eye and the 26-year-old’s future will be more uncertain should Middlesbrough drop out of the Premier League.