PREM: Middlesbrough v West Ham United preview

Middlesbrough v West Ham United preview

Middlesbrough could hand Patrick Bamford his second debut when they host West Ham United on Saturday.

Boro, who have the fourth best defence in the Premier League but have scored just 17 goals - a league low - have struggled to find the balance between attack and defence.

However, they are four points above the relegation zone and have won three of their last six home Premier League matches.

West Ham, who are in the midst of a transfer saga involving Dimitri Payet, are 10 points worse off than at this stage last season.

Slaven Bilic's side were dropping towards the bottom three after a run of three straight league defeats, but last weekend's 3-0 win over Crystal Palace has eased some of the pressure on the former Croatia boss.

Bamford, who scored 19 times in 44 appearances on loan for the club during the 2014-15 season, has played little football in the last 18 months after making temporary moves to Crystal Palace, Norwich and Burnley and is likely to be involved only as a substitute.

Daniel Ayala sits out the second game of his three-match ban, while fellow defender Antonio Barragan (hamstring) and midfielder Gaston Ramirez (knee) remain on the sidelines.

West Ham striker Andy Carroll hopes to shake off a neck injury in time to make the trip.

Defenders Winston Reid and Sam Byram and winger Sofiane Feghouli have also sat out training this week with knocks, but Bilic expects all four players to be available.

Payet will not be in the squad as he is reportedly linked with a move to Marseille.

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