Agnew aims to outsmart Guardiola

Middlesbrough boss Steve Agnew. Credit: PA

Middlesbrough's interim head coach Steve Agnew is keen to outsmart Pep Guardiola this weekend having been in awe of his old Barcelona team.

Guardiola will hope Manchester City emerge from the Riverside on Sunday still in the Premier League's top four after a somewhat underwhelming campaign where he is yet to reach the heights he scaled with Barca and Bayern Munich.

It is the work he did in Catalonia, with an aesthetically-pleasing team that won three La Liga titles and a pair of Champions League trophies, which left Agnew so impressed.

However, he sees his own meeting with Guardiola as an opportunity to topple someone he holds so much respect for.

"I've admired Pep for many, many years," Agnew said.

"I used to watch and analyse his teams when he was at Barcelona. I've nothing but admiration for him.

"I watched the Manchester United game last night and as a coach it's just the same as the players - that's my direct competition and it would be great to put one over him.

"They (Barcelona) were just amazing, the way that they passed the ball. They were a possession-based team but with lots of creativity, lots of movement and talented, talented players that could score goals.

"When you come into a different country it is different, and England's different to Spain and different to Germany. He's a top, top coach and I'm sure he will become successful at Manchester City."

Agnew's Middlesbrough players will approach the contest in buoyant mood despite their predicament after the midweek success over Sunderland - their first in in the league since December.

It was all the more vital after relegation rivals Swansea and Hull recorded victories four days earlier, with Boro still six points adrift with four to play, and Agnew is hoping their long overdue success can be something of a fillip in their survival scrap.

"That's where the players certainly get the confidence and belief from - winning football matches," he noted.

"We have to remember that it's been a long time since we last won a Premier League game, four months, so I'm confident the players will be in a much better place.

"We know the situation that we're in and we know we have to win more matches but it definitely puts us in a better place at the moment."

Daniel Ayala came off against the Black Cats with a twisted ankle and he, along with Victor Valdes (ribs) and Grant Leadbitter (hamstring), are doubtful, though Gaston Ramirez is available again having served a one-match suspension.