Middlesbrough are set to take on Aston Villa at the Riverside Stadium on Saturday in the first-leg of the Championship play-offs. Tony Pulis’ side have to be at their best as they take on a side who finished seven points ahead of them. The last time the two sides faced off at the Riverside, Villa ran out narrow winners, so the hosts will want to change that.
Middlesbrough Team News
There are no new injuries or suspensions that Pulis needs to worry about. Here is how we expect the Riversiders to start against the Villans this weekend.
Darren Randolph has done a commendable job between the sticks for the Smoggies. The 30-year-old shot-stopper has mustered 15 clean sheets from 44 appearances in the league this season, making 2.20 saves per game on an average, and is expected to start.
Ben Gibson and Daniel Ayala have been solid in the heart of Middlesbrough back line more often than not this season. They two have put in consistent performances so far this season, exactly what you’d expect from the defenders belonging to a Tony Pulis side.
Meanwhile, Ryan Shotton is expected to start from the right-back position, for he defends well, springs forward on a regular basis and is good in the air as well. George Friend is expected to be used in the left-back slot.
A three-man midfield is set to be rolled out by the former West Bromwich Albion manager. Adam Clayton, Muhamed Besic and Jonny Howson are the likely players who could start.
Clayton’s presence brings a lot of calmness for Boro in the middle of the park. This gives the license to the likes of Howson and Besic to make driving runs forward and create chances for their teammates.
Stewart Downing is likely to operate from the left-wing once again. Downing hasn’t had the best of the seasons and he will be keen to end his season on a high. From the other side, Adama Traore is set to get the nod. His pace will be key in stretching the opposition defence.
Britt Assombalonga has plundered 15 goals in the Championship this season and the 25-year-old is expected to spearhead his side once again.
Statistics Credits: WhoScored & Squawka