THREE key questions ahead of Middlesbrough's meeting with St-Etienne at the Riverside
Middlesbrough will play their final pre-season friendly of the summer when French side St-Etienne visit the Riverside on Sunday afternoon – but what should fans be looking out for? Here are three key questions ahead of the fixture.
Will Marcus Browne play a part? – The 21-year-old should add some much-needed pace and flair to Boro’s attack this season after arriving from West Ham earlier this week.
Browne was deployed on the wing during his loan spell at Oxford last season and is likely to play a similar role in Woodgate’s preferred 4-3-3 set-up.
Boro fans will be keen to get a first glimpse of their new signing at the Riverside against the Ligue 1 outfit.
With places still up for grabs, it will be interesting to see if Woodgate throws Browne straight into the starting XI or makes him wait for his opportunity.
How will Boro line-up at the back? – There were some encouraging signs during Tuesday’s 3-1 win at Salford, yet Boro still looked unconvincing at the back.
Woodgate is keen for his side to pass and keep the ball yet, so far this summer, Boro’s centre-backs haven’t looked comfortable when trying to play out from the back.
The return of Dael Fry will be a big boost but it may take a while for the 21-year-old to get up to speed following a lengthy hamstring injury.
Will Woodgate stick with the centre-back pairing of Daniel Ayala and Ryan Shotton? Or could he move returning captain George Friend into a central role after Hayden Coulson’s impressive performances at left-back?
Will Darren Randolph be fit? – It is slightly concerning that Boro’s first-choice shot-stopper has missed the side’s last three friendlies with a calf injury.
The Republic of Ireland international was the club’s standout player last season and would be a huge loss if he isn’t available for next week’s Championship opener at Luton.
Tomas Mejias was signed as Randolph’s replacement but was left on the bench at Salford, where 21-year-old Aynsley Pears took his chance to impress.
Earlier this summer Woodgate said Pears would be sent out on loan to gain some regular game time. He’ll certainly have plenty of suitors.