Middlesbrough secured a thumping 3-0 win over Leeds United last week and are currently trailing Bristol City, who are placed at the 6th spot in the league standings, by merely a couple of points. Today, they are due to host Birmingham City at the Riverside Stadium, with the Blues set to play their first game under the stewardship of their new manager, Garry Monk.
Middlesbrough will be without their skipper, Grant Leadbitter, as he was booked for the 10th time this season in the 3-0 win over Leeds United on Friday. Rudy Gestede is out for the rest of the season owing to his ankle injury and Fabio is returning to fitness from his thigh problem but will not be in contention to feature in the upcoming fixture.
Here is how we expect Tony Pulis to roll out his starting line-up against Birmingham City.
Darren Randolph had very little to do against the Whites, as Paul Heckingbottom’s men could muster merely one shot on target. Randolph has 13 clean sheets to his name from 35 appearances this season and has made 2.11 saves per game on an average. Given that he has been a key player for the Smoggies this season, he is expected to start once again between the sticks in the upcoming league game.
We expect to see Pulis rolling out the same defensive line which he used against Leeds United. While Daniel Ayala and Ben Gibson should get the nod to start in central defence, Ryan Shotton is anticipated to be pencilled in the right-back slot having impressed considerably in recent weeks. George Friend is expected to operate as the left-back.
Muhamed Besic has taken very little time to settle in the midfield setup of Boro and he deserves to get a start from the central defensive midfield position against Birmingham City. Meanwhile, Jonny Howson and Adam Clayton might get the green signal to operate as the central midfielders, with the latter expected to be installed in the absence of Leadbitter.
Patrick Bamford smashed a hat-trick against Leeds United and there is no denying that he would be one of the first names to be chalked in the starting line-up for the upcoming fixture by Pulis. The 24-year-old striker would be craving to carry on his form and lead the attacking arsenal of his side once again.
Stewart Downing is anticipated to start from the left-wing to create chances for his teammates. Further, Adama Traore has been a stupendous player for the Riversiders this season owing to his attacking prowess and should start from the right-wing.
Statistics Credits: Whoscored and Squawka