Championship promotion chasers Middlesbrough are understood to be interested in signing Brentford midfielder Romaine Sawyers, but have Aston Villa for competition, according to BT Sport.

Tony Pulis’ Boro side made a fast start to the campaign, but have hit the skids in the second tier recently, as the likes of Leeds United, Norwich City and West Bromwich Albion have gone clear of them.

One of the reasons for the struggles of Middlesbrough has been a distinct lack of goals. They have found finding the net difficult throughout the rein of the former Stoke City boss, and are eyeing up creative players in this transfer window to help out with that.

Boro certainly don’t lack for quality in front of goal, with Britt Assombalonga one of the better forwards at Championship level, and Jordan Hugill having had a good record in the division in his time with Preston North End.

Middlesbrough’s rivals in the second division, Aston Villa, were lining up a move for the midfielder, but it could be that they will be unable to sign him until the summer.

Dean Smith worked with Sawyers at Brentford and is keen to link up with him again, but he is expected to have to sell players before he can bring anyone significant to Villa Park, which might be beyond him in this window.

That could leave the path clear for Boro to step in and capitalise. The 27-year-old is out of contract at the end of next season, so the Londoners could be forced to listen to any sizeable offers.

Middlesbrough require someone who can provide the ammunition to their strikers in order to relaunch their promotion charge, so it would be a surprise if they don’t test the Bees with a significant bid at some point in the month.

Not only would Boro then be in reach of filling a huge void, they would also be depriving a rival of the chance to get him, which would be perfect for Pulis and his men.

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