FIVE things Middlesbrough fans should watch out for during pre-season
Middlesbrough will kick-off their pre-season fixture list later this week with a game against Austrian side Grazer AK on Friday – but what should fans be looking out for?
We’ve identified five things to keep an eye on as Jonathan Woodgate’s side gear up for the new Championship campaign.
What formation will Boro play? – Last season Boro switched from a back three to a back four under Tony Pulis, who set-up his side to play with wing-backs due to the squad’s lack of wingers.
It will be interesting to see if Woodgate trials out a similar system, or goes straight for a more offensive 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1.
How will Martin Braithwaite fare? – The Danish international rejoined the squad for their pre-season trip to Austria and looks like he’ll receive a second chance under Woodgate.
Braithwaite’s talent isn’t in doubt but, after handing in a transfer request last season, it’s still unclear exactly where his head is at.
The upcoming friendly games should give us a better indication, and whether he can be a part of Woodgate’s new-look side.
Which youngsters will step up – In his opening Boro press conference, Woodgate opened the door for the club’s young prospect. “If they’re good enough they’ll play,” he said.
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Many of the club’s under-23s players have travelled with the squad to Austria, with many desperate to take their chance.
How will Boro cope without Britt Assombalonga – The side’s top scorer from last season is still away on international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Assombalonga’s absence could open up a chance for players such as Luke Armstrong, 22, while Ashley Fletcher and Rudy Gestede will be hoping to nail down a first-team spot.
Where will Paddy McNair be used? – Signed as a central midfielder, most of McNair’s appearances came as a defender last season, following his move from Sunderland.
The Northern Ireland international has been linked with a move away from the Riverside this summer but has travelled to Austria with the rest of the squad.
With Adam Clayton, Jonny Howson, George Saville and Lewis Wing also under consideration, Woodgate has plenty of options in midfield.