Middlesbrough will be taking on Millwall in their first encounter of the season this weekend. The Lions came perilously close to qualifying for the playoffs last season despite being the newcomers to the Championship. Neil Harris’ side missed the sixth spot by three points and would be looking to improve on that.
The Teessiders, under Tony Pulis, made it through to the playoffs but were narrowly defeated by Aston Villa. As expected, the veteran manager built this team on the back of a strong defence, and he would be looking to continue the same even in the upcoming season. Pulis, however, needs to find a way to add more attacking threats to this team.
The Boro would be expected to challenge for the playoff spots, but the question is whether this current team is good enough to clinch automatic promotion.
Injury Concerns and Team News
Adama Traore, who has continuously been linked with a move away from the club, could miss the game with a shoulder injury. Daniel Ayala will also find it tough to get fit in time for this encounter. Pulis will also be without the services of new signing Paddy McNair.
Darren Randolph is expected to start in goal for his side.
Aiden Flint is a massive acquisition for the Teessiders and is a perfect player for someone like Pulis. He is dominant in defence and has the knack of scoring goals through set pieces. The 29-year-old is likely to start and is set to play a crucial role throughout the season. He is going to be partnered by Ben Gibson, and both of them would be hopeful of forming a formidable partnership at the back.
George Friend and Ryan Shotton will start in their usual fullback roles.
The experienced Grant Leadbitter will reprise his usual role in the defensive midfield position. Jonathan Howson and Adam Clayton are expected to partner him in the midfield three.
Traore is set to miss out due to injury, but the Boro management team is presumed to have a busy time ahead in the transfer market as the player is linked with a move away from the club. In his absence, the experienced Stewart Downing will have to step up in the right-wing role with Marvin Johnson starting down the left. With the departure of Patrick Bamford, Britt Assombalonga will be the one to lead the line.