Despite what has been quite a poor season Middlesbrough somehow still find themselves in contention of the playoffs. They saw off Hull City in their last game which has put them in 8th place and just two points off the top 6.
Boro now face a very poor Sunderland side this weekend. And given that Middlesbrough seriously struggles against the top teams this season, a win against 24th place Sunderland is a necessity. A win for Boro could see them move as high as 6th. While a loss could see them drop down to 10th.
Here is how they might line up.
The 4-2-3-1 saw Boro to victory in their last match meaning they will likely stick with it again this weekend.
GK: Darren Randolph
Randolph made several good saves vs Hull. But he could have perhaps done better with their goal. He will start this weekend though.
RB: Ryan Shotton
Shotton had another solid display at right back vs Hull and he is now a key component of Pulis’s side. He will start vs Sunderland.
RCB: Daniel Ayala
Ayala had another decent game for Boro when they beat Hull 3-1. The Spaniard will be looking to develop on that in the derby this weekend.
LCB: Ben Gibson
Gibson was pulled from the Bor squad to face Hull at the last minute due to sickness. However, he should be back in time to face Sunderland this weekend.
LB: George Friend
Friend nearly cost Boro a goal vs Hull with a poor clearance. However, he is still currently Boro’s only playing left back so he will start on Saturday.
CDM: Muhamed Besic
Besic looked sharp in midfield vs Hull and he now looks to be a regular starter for Boro. Although he is still a bit of completing the full 90 minutes for Middlesbrough.
CDM: Grant Leadbitter
Given Leadbitter is Middlesbrough’s captain and a very Pulis style CM, it is likely going to be him who will partner Besic in midfield rather than the more adventurous Howson.
RM: Adama Traore
Traore put in another impressive display last time out for Boro which he capped off with an assist for the final goal of the game. He will start vs Sunderland.
CAM: Stewart Downing
Downing did a decent job in the CAM role. However, it is still an area Middlesbrough need to strengthen in. But for now Downing is the best option and he will start in the derby.
LM: Patrick Bamford
Bamford’s performance vs Hull was somewhat reminiscent of his old display’s back in 2014/15. He still up Gestede’s first goal with a nice flick and then scored himself with a calm chip over the keeper. Hopefully, he can keep up that form vs Sunderland.
ST: Ruddy Gestede
Gestede has received a fair bit of criticism lately from Boro fans and probably justifiably so as he has not been in great form. However, he managed to bad two in the Teessider’s last match which will hopefully give him some confidence to go on and start scoring regularly.
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