THREE key questions ahead of Middlesbrough's pre-season meeting with FC Heidenheim
Middlesbrough face their fourth pre-season friendly of the summer on Saturday afternoon when they’ll meet German side 1. FC Heidenheim at the Voith-Arena – but what should fans be looking out for this weekend?
Here are three key questions ahead of Boro’s meeting with the Bundesliga 2 outfit.
How will Boro cope with a double header? – While a small Boro squad have flown out to Germany to face Heidenheim, a younger side will take on Bishop Auckland at Heritage Park (1pm kick-off).
Leo Percovich and under-23s boss Graeme Lee will take charge of the team at Bishop Auckland while Woodgate, Robbie Keane, and Danny Coyne have travelled to Germany.
“We’re expecting a tough game in Germany,” Woodgate told the club’s website. “We’re looking at both games as good workouts for everyone, and it’s another step along the way in terms of our preparation.”
“We’re looking to get more minutes in for the players and get some up to 90 so we’re going to use both games to do that.
“Those that don’t play 90 over this weekend will get the chance at Salford on Tuesday.”
Who will start at the back? – With Dael Fry and Daniel Ayala still recovering from injuries, Ryan Shotton and Aden Flint have started Boro’s last two pre-season games against Gateshead and Hartlepool.
However, following Flint’s abrupt departure to Cardiff City earlier this week, Boro appear short of options at the back.
Ayala is believed to be nearing a return after limping off in Boro’s friendly against Grazer AK earlier this month, while captain George Friend is also nearing full fitness again following last season’s hip injury.
Boro’s other centre-back options include youngsters Nathan Wood, 17, and 20-year-old Sam Stubbs.
Will Britt Assombalonga feature? – Boro’s top scorer from last season returned to Middlesbrough earlier this week after he was given an extended break due to his involvement at the Africa Cup of Nations.
The striker scored 14 Championship goals last season and is a proven goal scorer in the second tier, so Woodgate will surely want to fit the 26-year-old into his side.