Why Middlesbrough boss Jonathan Woodgate must be wary of this Tottenham Hotspur playmaker with point to prove
Jonathan Woodgate’s Middlesbrough side face tough opposition in Jose Mourinho's Spurs at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium tonight (KO 8.05pm).
It may just be the right time for Boro to catch Spurs off guard as Mourinho is without star-man Harry Kane who he has described as “irreplaceable”.
But they shouldn’t hide from the fact that Spurs are unbeaten in their last nine home games against Boro, with Boro’s last win against them coming in 2002 at White Hart Lane with goals from Massimo Maccarone, Geremi and Joseph Desire-Job in a 3-0 victory.
Mourinho named a strong side in the reverse fixture just over a week ago, but he has hinted in his pre-match press conference that Toby Alderweireld may be rested ahead of must win games against relegation-threatened Watford and Norwich City before the end of the month.
Hugo Lloris, Ben Davies, Moussa Sissoko and Tanguy Ndombele are the other players that are out for Spurs.
Mourinho has confirmed that Christian Eriksen will play tonight, but he doesn’t believe he’s at his best.
He said: "He plays but if you ask me if I think this is the best Christian Eriksen, I have to be honest and say no.
"I know clearly that a player in his situation doesn't perform at the highest level. I can also say he's helping us."
Like Spurs, Middlesbrough have played three of their last five league games with three at the back and as they are without key defender Daniel Ayala, they are likely to play Jonny Howson, Paddy McNair and Dael Fry at the back.
Britt Assombalonga misses the game with an ankle injury, and Anfernee Dijksteel, Ryan Shotton and George Friend remain unavailable.
Boro manager Jonathan Woodgate has said his young side are “looking forward to the game”.
"It's a step up in class when you play Spurs,” he said.
“Hopefully the players take it in their stride and not play the occasion. The atmosphere will be absolutely amazing down there.
"We've got a lot of young players who will be looking forward to it. I'm looking forward to seeing how they deal with it."