Middlesbrough v Leeds United: Tony Pulis admits 'better than most' Whites merit place in top two
MIDDLESBROUGH boss Tony Pulis believes Leeds United's position in the automatic promotion places has been achieved on merit, declaring: "They have been as good as anybody this season and better than most."
Leeds are approaching Saturday lunch-time's Championship clash at The Riverside having lost four of their last six league games with United having surrendered top spot through last weekend's 3-1 loss at home to new leaders Norwich City.
The Whites, though, remain level on points with the Canaries and Pulis has given a strong vote of confidence to the Whites and the work of head coach Marcelo Bielsa.
Boro - who sit fifth - are themselves looking to bounce back from a huge disappointment following Tuesday night's 2-0 loss at Newport County in the FA Cup fourth round though that result followed Saturday's fine 3-2 success at West Brom.
Seven points separate Leeds and Boro but Pulis' men also have a game in hand.
“Leeds are up there because they have been as good as anybody this season and better than most and we know it's going to be a tough game," said Pulis.
"What happened Tuesday? We move on. What happened last Saturday against West Brom? We moved on.
“We've moved on a lot faster from Tuesday's result! But that's what you do, you have to move on. We've got an important game coming up against Leeds so all that is in the past now and what the players have got to understand that and make sure they are ready for tomorrow.
“He'll be saying exactly the same, new game, new start, new 90 minutes and no two games are the same."
Pulis is also looking forward to renewing acquaintances with three of his former players from Middlesbrough in Patrick, Bamford, Jack Harrison and Adam Forshawwho were all the Riverside last term though Forshaw is a doubt with a knee injury.
Relishing the prospect of a derby atmosphere, Pulis said: "Leeds are bringing a lot of supporters, it's a big club with fabulous support, they've got a top manager and some good players.
“Patrick will be coming back and Jack (Harrison), two wonderful lads.
"Patrick was a really, really good lad, I really enjoyed him, he was full of life. He comes from a very privileged background and got slaughtered for it. But he's a very good lad, I like Patrick.
“And Jack is a wonderful kid, his parents can be very, very proud of him, he's a lovely kid.
“He's one that when they leave you, you are always looking to see how they've done because he left such a good impression in terms of his character and personality.
“So it will be nice to see those two back and Forshaw, though they say he is injured.”