After picking up their first home win under Tony Pulis last weekend Middlesbrough will be keen to build on that when they face Cardiff this Saturday. Boro looked very sharp for the first 50 or so minutes when they beat Reading 2-1. However, they took their foot off the peddle after that and it nearly allowed Reading to snatch a draw. This will be something Pulis will be eager to eradicate from Boro’s game vs Cardiff who are fellow playoff rivals.
A win for Boro could see them move up to 7th. While a loss would keep them 9th. But anything less than a win would put a huge dent in the Teessider’s playoff hopes.
Here is how they might line up.
4-2-3-1 led Boro to success in their last match vs Reading. So, it is likely they will stick with it again this weekend.
GK: Darren Randolph
Randolph had a decent game vs Reading and given the stellar performances he has put in this season he is very likely to start vs Cardiff.
RB: Ryan Shotton
Ryan Shotton has been one of Boro’s stand out players in 2018 which was further evidenced when he put on another excellent display vs Reading. He will start vs Cardiff.
RCB: Daniel Ayala
Ayala has improved a lot since Tony Pulis took over and earned himself a regular starting place again. He will start this weekend.
LCB: Ben Gibson
Gibson has also improved somewhat under Pulis. And given he has started every league game this season he will start vs Cardiff unless he picks up an injury.
LB: George Friend
Fabio has still yet to feature in a matchday squad after asking to leave Boro in January. So, it is very likely Friend will keep his place at left back on Saturday.
CDM: Grant Leadbitter
Given that Leadbitter is Middlesbrough’s captain and he and Howson are perhaps Boro’s best centre mid duo, it is very likely he will retain his place vs Cardiff.
CDM: Jonny Howson
Howson returned to the side vs Reading after Adam Clayton took his place in Boro’s defeat to Norwich. So, it’s likely Howson will keep his place this weekend given Boro picked up a win vs Reading with Howson and Leadbitter in midfield.
RM: Adama Traore
Adama Traore has come on leaps and bounds under Tony Pulis. He put on what was perhaps his best display in a Boro shirt vs Reading when he scored two excellent goals to win the game. He is by far Middlesbrough’s biggest attacking threat and he will start vs Cardiff.
CAM: Stewart Downing
Downing had another decent game last time out which saw him set up Traore for his first goal. He will keep his place at CAM this weekend.
LM: Jack Harrison
Harrison has yet to start for Boro due to a lack of match fitness. However, given that Patrick Bamford continues to put on woeful displays, he is likely to be dropped for Harrison this weekend.
ST: Ruddy Gestede
Gestede had another average game when he started vs Reading. But given Assombalonga came on, took a penalty off Traore and skied it into the stands, Pulis is unlikely to start him this weekend. This means Gestede is likely to keep his place up front.
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