After a run of poor form, Middlesbrough are finally starting to pick up wins. They won 2-0 at the weekend vs Reading and then 3-1 away to Hull City on Tuesday night. Middlesbrough now host a struggling Sunderland side this Sunday.
A win vs Sunderland is vital not only because Boro need to catch up to league leaders Wolves. But also because Sunderland are currently 22nd in the league, managerless and have won just once in the league this season.
It would also relieve some of the pressure on Garry Monk if Middlesbrough were to pick up three wins in a row.
Here is how they are likely to line-up.
Middlesbrough have played a variation of this formation in their last two league games, both of which they won.
The 4-4-1-1 also allows Martin Braithwaite and Britt Assombalonga to link up well. This was evident in Boro’s last game vs Hull City when both Britt and Braithwaite got on the score sheet. Therefore, it is likely Monk will stick with a similar system on Sunday given that Boro are having some success with it.
GK: Darren Randolph
Randolph has been Boro’s number one all season. He has been largely solid and he will start vs Sunderland unless he picks up an injury.
RB: Cyrus Christie
Christie too has played every league game for Boro this season. And after the Hull game, it’s easy to see why.
Christie had a superb game. He also put a superb cross into the Hull box to set up Assombalonga. Considering Christie was labelled a ‘derby reject’ by many people when he signed for Boro, he hasn’t done bad at Middlesbrough.
RCB: Daniel Ayala
After trying out Fry, Ayala and Shotton in the RCB spot, Monk finally seems to be sticking with Ayala. Ayala did have a bit of a shaky start to the season. However, a run in the side has done him the world of good as he is starting to get back to being as good as he was when Boro were last promoted back in 2016.
LCB: Ben Gibson
Gibson has played every minute of league football for Middlesbrough this season and you can bet your house he’ll be starting again at the weekend. Gibson has been a constant in an ever-changing Boro defence over the past two seasons and he will start vs Sunderland.
LB: George Friend
Fabio picked up an injury in Middlesbrough’s last game vs Hull and is a doubt for the weekend. Friend replaced Fabio vs Hull and did a decent job. Therefore, he is likely to start vs Sunderland.
RM: Stewart Downing
Downing has won over many Boro fans and Monk in recent weeks with much more consistent displays.
However, he has still only managed one assist and zero goals in nine league appearances. So, Middlesbrough will be hoping Downing can add to that at the weekend vs a poor Sunderland side.
CM: Grant Leadbitter
Leadbitter had another solid display vs Hull City. He dominated Boro’s midfield and once again scored a penalty for Boro. He is very likely to start at the weekend.
CM: Jonny Howson
Given that Middlesbrough have won two in a row after a very poor run of form, it is unlikely Monk will want to change up a winning side. Therefore, it is likely Howson will once again partner Leadbitter in midfield.
LM: Marcus Tavernier
Tavernier has started Boro’s last two games after earning a place in the side through some quality League Cup displays. However, while he hasn’t been bad in the two games, he has not scored nor assisted. Middlesbrough will be hoping that changes at the weekend if he starts.
CF: Martin Braithwaite
Braithwaite has been superb for Boro since returning from injury. He has netted three goals in five starts from a CF position, one of which came in their last game at Hull City. Braithwaite is almost certain to start vs Sunderland given the form he is on.
ST: Britt Assombalonga
Assombalonga has now scored eight goals in 15 league games for Middlesbrough after netting one vs Hull on Tuesday. This means he is the joint second top goal scorer in the Championship. It also means that Britt managed to score as many goals in less than half a season, as Boro’s top scorer, David Nugent did last time they were promoted. Therefore, it’s safe to say Boro look to have finally signed a true goal scorer after years of being without one.
Here is how they might line up:
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