What Jonathan Woodgate's Middlesbrough team against Salford tells us ahead of the new campaign
Head coach Jonathan Woodgate has named his starting XI for tonight’s pre-season friendly at Salford as Middlesbrough’s side begins to take shape ahead of the new Championship campaign.
Britt Assombalonga has returned to the side following his involvement at the Africa Cup of Nations and will be supported by Ashley Fletcher and Marvin Johnson in Woodgate’s preferred 4-3-3 formation.
After missing the club’s trip to Germany at the weekend through illness, forward Martin Braithwaite is once again absent from the matchday squad, casting more doubt over his Boro future.
Interestingly, Johnson’s inclusion means Marcus Tavernier will drop to the bench, after Johnson impressed against non-league side Bishop Auckland on Saturday.
Boro’s midfield combination is also worth pointing out with Adam Clayton replacing George Saville in the holding role.
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At the back, Ryan Shotton has kept his place at centre-half, reiterating the point the 30-year-old’s future may lie in the heart of defence this season.
Shotton will be partnered by Daniel Ayala at the back, though captain George Friend is absent from the squad as he continues his return to full fitness.
Full-back is an area where Boro do appear short ahead of the new campaign and Woodgate has once again gone with 21-year-old Hayden Coulson at left-back, ahead of fellow youngster Patrick Reading who has also impressed during pre-season.
First-choice goalkeeper Darren Randolph remains out with a calf issue meaning youngster Aynsley Pears has been given a chance to shine between the sticks, ahead of the more experienced Tomas Mejias who will start on the bench.