Middlesbrough endured a frustrating time against Rotherham United in the mid-week as they were held to a goalless draw. Despite that, the Smoggies remain joint top along with Leeds United and Sheffield United.
On Saturday, Tony Pulis’ men are due to host Derby County at the Riverside Stadium. The Rams are also performing extremely well under Frank Lampard and this promises to be crunch fixture.
Middlesbrough Team News
Ryan Shotton is currently sidelined with a knee injury and his absence was certainly felt in the last game by Pulis’ side. Apart from him, the former West Bromwich Albion manager has no new injury or suspension concerns to worry about and he can field his strongest side for the massive game ahead.
Darren Randolph is expected to start as the custodian yet again. The veteran shot-stopper has been excellent this season and against Rotherham United, he denied Michael Smith and Ryan Williams from finding the back of the net with his superb saves.
A three-man defensive wall is set to be rolled out by Pulis in the upcoming clash as well with Daniel Ayala, Aden Flint and Dael Fry forming the trio. They have fared well so far this campaign and there is no denying that their defensive camaraderie has been vital for the Riversiders.
Another clean sheet was added to their record books even though it wasn’t the busiest 90 minutes for Boro. Flint has mustered 0.5 tackles, 5.8 clearances and 0.7 blocks per game on an average in 14 starts in the Championship and has been a leader on the pitch.
In the absence of Shotton, Paddy McNair will line up in the right wing-back position. However, he needs to improve his crossing if he wants to compete for regular starts. On the opposite flank, we expect George Friend to start in place of Stewart Downing.
Adam Clayton might have to be content with a spot on the bench, with George Saville taking his place in the central midfield alongside Jonny Howson and Muhamed Besic. They must dictate the game from the middle of the park. In 14 starts, Howson has garnered 3 assists and he will aim to add to his tally against Frank Lampard’s troops.
Britt Assombalonga should get the nod to start up top again. The 25-year-old has already scored 5 goals this season. Martin Braithwaite had a frustrating game last time out and there is a slight chance he might be replaced by Downing in the no. 10 position.
Statistics Credits: WhoScored