Middlesbrough go into this League Cup match against Aston Villa full of confidence. In their last three games, they’ve smashed Bolton 3-0, held Tuesday’s opponents Villa to an away 0-0 draw with 10 men and then came from behind twice to beat QPR 3-2 on Saturday. Something they had not done since 2005 when they came from behind to beat Fulham 3-2.
Middlesbrough’s last League Cup match saw them beat Scunthorpe United 3-0 and Boro will be hoping for a similar result this Tuesday. But as the League Cup is not Monk’s priority, that, of course, being the promotion to the Premier League, Middlesbrough are likely to field a much-changed side to the one they have been playing in the Championship.
Here is how they could line-up vs Villa on Tuesday.
As mentioned above Middlesbrough have had some really positive performances over the past week. All of those performances started out with a 4-2-3-1 formation. So, Monk is likely to opt for this system again against Villa as it is bringing Middlesbrough some good results.
Darren Randolph has been Middlesbrough’s main keeper this season in the league and he has done a fantastic job keeping five clean sheets in eight games.
But as this is the cup Dimi will likely start as he is Boro’s second choice keeper. The Greek also started in Boro’s last cup game where he managed to keep a clean sheet. Dimi is a quality keeper and he should be more than capable of putting in a good show on Tuesday.
RB: Connor Roberts
Like Dimi Connor Roberts has made just one appearance this season. That too was against Scunthorpe in the League Cup. This is largely because Cyrus Christie has been in great form in the league for Boro. So, Roberts is very likely to only be used in the cup this season, unless Christie is injured.
CB: Daniel Ayala
After a huge mistake in the first game of the season that saw Wolves beat Boro, Daniel Ayala has struggled to get back into the starting XI. He was injured for a few games. But he’s been back for a while now and Monk is still preferring Fry over Ayala.
This is hardly surprising given how well Fry has played in the Championship. Regardless, Monk will likely give Ayala a chance on Tuesday and he needs to take it if he wants to get anywhere near the starting XI again this season.
Ayala is a quality centre back on his day so he should be able to handle Villa just fine.
CB: Ryan Shotton
Ryan Shotton signed for Middlesbrough the day before the summer transfer window shut. However, he has still yet to make his debut. This is because Dael Fry and Ben Gibson had been doing so well in the league together that Monk has not wanted to disrupt that partnership.
On Tuesday day though it looks like Shotton could finally make his debut. Because as previously mentioned Monk and Boro are not too bothered about cups so they will likely give fringe players, Shotton being one, a chance to prove themselves in a game they aren’t too bothered about.
Shotton is a good, experienced Championship centre-back and he and Ayala could form a decent partnership on Tuesday.
LB: George Friend
George Friend started out the season as Middlesbrough’s main left back. But since Boro’s last cup game he has swapped places with Fabio who had not been used before the Scunthorpe game.
Fabio put in a great performance at Scunthorpe, combined with the fact Friend was not doing too well in the league, this caused Fabio to take Friend’s place in the starting XI.
Therefore, Friend will see this as a chance to retake his place from Fabio by putting in a great performance against Villa.
CDM: Adam Forshaw
Forshaw is yet another player who started out the season in the starting XI and the lost his place. Forshaw lost his place to Grant Leadbitter who also impressed Monk in Boro’s last cup game when he ran the show at Scunthorpe.
So, Forshaw will also be looking to regain his place by putting in a stellar performance at Villa. Something Forshaw is more than capable of doing.
CDM: Jonny Howson
Howson will be going into the cup match wanting to prove a point. He has lost his place for Boro and has also come under some criticism from certain fans. However, Howson is proven quality at Championship level and should cause Villa a few problems.
RM: Patrick Bamford
Patrick Bamford has been somewhat outcast this season despite being one of Boro’s brighter players in the early games. Bamford also knows how to play the right mid position in a 4-2-3-1 very well.
It was in that position he played primarily in his last spell at Middlesbrough when he scored 17 Championship goals in one season and won player of the season. So, Boro will be hoping that he can play with that form on Tuesday if he starts on the right.
CAM: Stewart Downing
Boro are somewhat short in the CAM position this season. Lewis Baker has been playing there in recent games and he even scored in Boro’s 3-2 win over QPR linking up well with Johnson.
But Monk will likely want to rest Baker for the league. This only really leaves Stewart Downing who has a decent bit of experience in the CAM role. He has played there 41 times in his career so he should be more than capable of playing there against one of his former clubs on Tuesday.
LM: Marvin Johnson
Marvin Johnson has been outstanding since signing for Middlesbrough. In his first sub appearance, he scored against Bolton. Then he came off the bench at Aston Villa and got Henry Lansbury sent off. Then on Saturday in his first start, he was MOTM. Johnson caused QPR so many problems running in behind the defence and he also got two assists. He was by far Middlesbrough’s best player and looks a real steal for Boro at just £2 million.
Monk would likely want to rest Johnson on Tuesday. But Boro’s other left winger Martin Braithwaite is still recovering from an injury and is unlikely to be fit on Tuesday. This will leave Johnson as Boro’s only left mid against Villa.
ST: Ashley Fletcher
Fletcher is another fringe player that will likely start on Tuesday. He started Boro’s last cup game and scored in that game. He also came off the bench against QPR and scored Boro’s second of the day.
Fletcher has goals in him and is extremely fast. He may not have the goal scoring ability of Assombalonga but he’s certainly good enough to do a job in the cup for Boro.