Middlesbrough have faith in goalie Brad Guzan for big Sunderland relegation derby

Middlesbrough goalkeeper Brad Guzan
Middlesbrough goalkeeper Brad Guzan

Brad Guzan has been backed to step into Victor Valdes’ boots as Middlesbrough attempt to drag themselves back from the brink of relegation from the Premier League.

The 32-year-old United States international replaced the injured Valdes for Monday night’s 2-1 home defeat by Arsenal and is set to wear the gloves once again at Bournemouth on Saturday, with the Spaniard struggling to shake off a rib problem.

However, interim head coach Steve Agnew has no qualms over turning to a man who knows the English top flight inside out after eight years at Aston Villa.

Agnew said: “Brad Guzan has been great this season. He was in earlier on in the season and performed very, very well and again I thought he was very, very competent the other night.

“We have to remember he’s played seven, eight years in the Premier League with Aston Villa, so he’s an experienced goalkeeper.”

Guzan’s appearance against the Gunners was just his fourth in the league this season and his return has come with Boro desperately scrapping for their lives, having slipped six points adrift of safety with just six games remaining.

The trip to the Vitality Stadium and next Wednesday’s home clash with fellow strugglers Sunderland represent must-win affairs, with the run-in significantly increasing in difficult thereafter.

However, Agnew has no fears over Guzan’s readiness to play his part, with he and former Hartlepool United goalie Dimi Konstantopoulos preparing for each game as if they were starting anyway.

He said: “They sit and watch videos of the opposition and they know exactly the strengths and weaknesses of Bournemouth in an attacking sense.

“As I said earlier, it’s the experience that Brad brings - and Dimi, obviously - that gives you confidence.”

Agnew will make late checks on striker Rudy Gestede, who is nursing a foot injury, and full-back Fabio, who damaged a knee on Monday evening, although he is hopeful both men will be available, as will Calum Chambers, who was ineligible to play against his parent club despite shaking off a foot problem.

However, skipper Grant Leadbitter will miss the game after suffering a hamstring strain and Agnew admits he will be missed.

He said: “He is the captain and leader of the team and what Grant gives us is that leadership and the communication and the organisation, so yes of course Grant’s a miss, but when a player is injured then that gives an opportunity for another member of the squad.”