Two of the biggest sides in the Championship, Middlesbrough and Stoke City were both earmarked as potential promotion candidates but as of yet, Stoke have failed to live up to expectations.
On paper, Stoke possesses one of the best sides in the league but as of yet, they’ve underperformed. Having scored four goals, Benik Afobe is the top scorer for the club but if Stoke are going to get back into the play-off hunt, he must begin to show the form he showed during his spells at MK Dons and Wolves.
Middlesbrough on the other hand, have performed well and look as though they’ll be contending for one of the automatic promotion spots. Central to those hopes will be the form of Britt Assombalonga.
In the 2014/15 season, Afobe became one of the most potent strikers in the country as he scored 23 goals in total for MK Dons and Wolves. Since then, however, the former Arsenal striker has found life a lot tougher and over the summer he was signed on loan by Stoke who have an obligation to buy come January.
A player that comes alive in the final third, Afobe is somewhat of an old-school striker. He isn’t the kind of striker who will be involved in the side’s build up but what he will do is make runs in behind and is always on the shoulder of the last defender.
However, so far this season he’s only scored four goals this year and as Stoke have struggled to get going this season, as has Afobe. If Gary Rowett has any chance of getting his side into the play-off spots, he needs his forward to score and as of yet, he needs to find his past form quickly.
TT Grade: B-
Signed for a club record fee of £14 million, Britt Assombalonga formed a deadly partnership with Adam Traore last year and thanks to the two players, Middlesbrough reached the play-offs.
The powerful and dynamic midfielder scored 15 goals in the league last year. This season, he’s made a slightly slower start as he’s scored five in 14 games and seems to be missing the dynamism of Traore.
To supplement Traore’s goal threat, Pulis has transformed the side into a solid 3-5-2, often pairing Assombalonga up front. The powerful forward may not be as clinical in front of goal as Afobe but he certainly provides Pulis with the ideal forward to lead the line.
TT Grade: B
Both forwards have had fairly slow starts to the season and must up their goal tally if they are to get their respective sides into the play-offs. Due to his use in Pulis’ side, Assombalonga wins this one.
He may not be as clinical as Afobe but considering his potential, the price the club paid for him and his dynamism, the Boro man wins this one. If Afobe had made a better start to his Stoke career, he may have come out on top here but at the moment, he just hasn’t replicated his previous form.