Boxing Day football returns to the MKM Stadium as Hull City entertain in-form promotion hopefuls Blackburn Rovers.
Assistant Head Coach Cliff Byrne will lead the team in the absence of Grant McCann after he tested positive for Covid-19, with the Tigers bidding for a third win in four home matches.
Rovers are flying high in third under Tony Mowbray after five consecutive wins and clean sheets, with the Championship’s second top scorer Ben Brereton Diaz spearheading their promotion charge.
“We are expecting a challenging game,” said Byrne.
“They are in a rich vein of form – as we have been, without the result against Nottingham Forest. We expect a really good game.
“Tony’s got a way of playing and they’ve been producing results with that formula. They can mix it up.
“They’ve got a striker in good form in Brereton Diaz and they’ve got plenty of good personnel all round the pitch, so we wouldn’t want to focus on just one area.
“Over the course of the games they’ve won, they’ve shown they can play different styles of football, whatever is required. But once again, we’ll be focusing on us.”
Although beaten by Nottingham Forest last time out, the Tigers have accrued 14 points from the last seven games and Byrne believes the hard work is paying off.
“It’s been really positive and just rewards for how hard the group has been working,” he added.
“The performance levels, for the majority of the season, have been strong for large chunks of games and we’ve not always come away with the points to show for it.
“Over the course of the last seven games, we’ve had that strong return of points, which is really pleasing for the group and something for us to keep building on.
“The results are a by-product of the performance. Across the game against Nottingham Forest, we had good performance levels, especially in the second half.
“We felt we should have come away from the game with something. It’s a case of turning those performances into results, as we did in the previous six.”
And Byrne would love nothing more than to give the Hull City fans a late Christmas present.
“Boxing Day is always a big occasion and it’s one we’re looking forward to,” Byrne said.
“The fans have been immense in recent weeks, home and away, and they’ve played a major role in supporting the players on the pitch.
“That doesn’t go unnoticed and we’re looking forward to hopefully a bumper crowd on Sunday.”