Middlesbrough host Cardiff this weekend and they will be finally looking to pick up their first win in what will be five games, including Cardiff.
Middlesbrough have drawn three of their last four games and are seriously struggling to not concede goals. Especially in the first half.
However, Cardiff too, are on a slight dip in form after losing their last game to Birmingham City. So, Middlesbrough will be hoping to capitalise on this and finally pick up another three points.
Here is how they might line up.
The 4-2-3-1 seems to be becoming Middlesbrough’s go to formation this season. It has served Monk well in previous jobs and has also helped Middlesbrough win promotion in previous seasons. Therefore, Monk is likely to stick with it once again on Saturday.
GK: Darren Randolph
Randolph did not have his best game against Barnsley. He conceded two and probably should have done better with the second. Barnsley played a ball in, he started to come then started backing off. This left him in no man’s land and made it a lot easier for Barnsley to score.
However, he has proven time and time again this season that he is a top quality keeper. And Middlesbrough will be hoping he returns to that form this weekend.
RB: Cyrus Christie
Christie also could have done slightly better with Barnsley’s second. But his problem was more that centre-back Daniel Ayala went out to his potion and forced Cyrus to take up Ayala’s position in the box. This obviously didn’t go too well as the small right back is not used to having to challenge for headers.
Christie did have a few bright spells though, bursting forward and smashing a volley straight at the Barnsley keeper. So, Boro will be hoping he is back to his best on Saturday.
RCB: Dael Fry
Dael Fry has been left out of Middlesbrough’s last two matches after giving away a goal against Norwich.
However, in Middlesbrough’s last two games their defence has looked shaky and they’ve conceded two in both games. Therefore, it seems quite clear that Fry needs to be brought back in to provide some defensive stability.
LCB: Ben Gibson
Sticking with the Boro’s defensive problems, it was the Fry Gibson partnership that kept all five of Middlesbrough’s clean sheets this season. Plus the fact Ryan Shotton and Daniel Ayala have had poor games recently, it looks likely that Gibson will occupy the LCB spot alongside Fry vs Cardiff.
The left-back spot could go either way between Fabio and George Friend this weekend. However, Monk seems to favour Fabio meaning he is likely to start. However, Friend came on as a sub against Barnsley so he may well get the shout on Saturday.
Both Friend and Fabio would do a decent job no matter who starts.
CDM: Adam Clayton
Clayton has started every Boro league game this season and given his passing and defensive ability, he should be starting again this weekend.
CDM: Grant Leadbitter
With Middlesbrough’s defence looking so poor lately, the Leadbitter and Clayton partnership needs to remain in place in order to provide some stability in front of the back four.
The other two options for this position are Forshaw and Howson. Neither are as defensive minded as Leadbitter. So, he is likely to get the nod vs Cardiff in order to prevent the scoreline becoming embarrassing.
RM: Patrick Bamford
Garry Monk seems to really dislike Bamford after leaving him on the bench again against Barnsley. But given Adama Traore is now out of favour after missing the bus to Barnsley, Bamford may come into the right mid spot on Saturday.
Bamford can also provide some creativity which Middlesbrough are lacking a bit up top.
CAM: Stewart Downing
Despite many Boro fans reservations towards Downing, he was Middlesbrough’s best player on Barnsley. He was the only one to provide any real creativity. This was eventually rewarded when he picked the assist for Middlesbrough’s second.
Therefore, given his good performance against Barnsley and the fact he has actually had CAM experience, he should probably start their vs Cardiff.
LM: Martin Braithwaite
Braithwaite has been excellent since returning from injury and Middlesbrough will be devastated they haven’t had him fit all season.
Braithwaite is great at running at defenders and has an excellent finish. This was demonstrated again vs Barnsley when he scored his second goal in his second start since coming back from injury.
If Middlesbrough can provide for him properly, there is no reason why his goalscoring form can’t continue against Cardiff.
ST: Britt Assombalonga
Assombalonga finally ended his mini goal drought at the weekend when he netted the equaliser. It was an excellent near-post finish that curled past the keeper. And further showed what a top finisher he is.
He is also currently the joint second top goal scorer in the league. So, much like Braithwaite, if Middlesbrough tightens up their defence and start providing better service for their attackers, both Assombalonga and Braithwaite could score plenty this season.
Here is how they might line up: