THREE key questions ahead of Middlesbrough's trip to Salford City

Middlesbrough will play their penultimate pre-season friendly of the summer tonight when they travel to the Peninsula Stadium to face Salford City – but what should fans be looking out for? We take a closer look at some of the key talking points ahead of the match.

By Joe Nicholson
Tuesday, 23 July, 2019, 11:45
Britt Assombalonga scored 14 league goals for Middlesbrough last season.

Who will start in midfield? – With just two friendlies to go before the start of the new Championship campaign, we should get a better understanding about what Woodgate considers his strongest side.

One area where the head coach does have options is in central midfield, with Boro’s head coach keen to deploy a 4-3-3 system.

The set-up accommodates one holding midfielder, a role which has been occupied by Adam Clayton, Lewis Wing and George Saville this summer.

Wing and Saville have also been used in the more offensive midfield slots, as has Paddy McNair, while Jonny Howson can also operate in the engine room.

With games against Salford and St-Etienne to come this week, Boro’s first-choice midfield combination should become a little clearer.

How can Boro get the best out of Britt Assombalonga? – The 26-year-old striker was Middlesbrough’s top scorer last season after netting 14 Championship goals.

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That was in a side which appeared to be playing with the shackles on for must of the campaign, and only four teams in the second tier scored less goals than Boro last term.

Assombalonga, who is expected to start at Salford, is a proven goalscorer at Championship level but will need support and service to help him reach double goalscoring digits this season.

Could that mean playing Ashley Fletcher and Martin Braithwaite as inverted forwards, asking the midfielders to push up or the full-backs to overlap? Woodgate’s thinking should become clearer tonight.

How many youngsters will feature? – Woodgate has been keen to give minutes to some of the younger members of the squad this summer but, with less than two weeks to go until the start of the new season, Boro’s head coach will surely have one eye on next month’s trip to Luton.

It will be interesting to see how many of the youngsters are selected at the Peninsula Stadium as Boro’s side starts to take shape.