Three key questions ahead of Middlesbrough's meeting with Brentford at the Riverside

Jonathan Woodgate will take charge of his first home game as Middlesbrough boss this afternoon – and there are plenty of questions ahead of the Teessiders’ meeting with Brenford.

By Joe Nicholson
Saturday, 10 August, 2019, 11:17
Captain George Friend is expected to be fit for Middlesbrough's meeting with Brentford and could play at left-back or centre-half.

We take a closer look at some of the things to watch out for when Boro face the Bees at the Riverside.

How good is Boro’s pressing game? – Over pre-season and during last week’s draw at Luton, we’ve seen more signs of the high energy pressing game which Woodgate wants from his side.

It’s a stark contrast to the style of play under Tony Pulis last season, when the side attempted to sit deep and hit teams on the counter attack.

Against Birmingham last weekend, Brentford dominated possession and saw 76 per cent of the ball despite suffering a 1-0 defeat.

Boro’s ability to win the ball back and keep it will therefore be put to the test.

Where will George Friend and Jonny Howson feature? – Woodgate has repeatedly praised two of his most experienced players who the Boro head coach has highlighted as role models in the dressing room.

Even so, there’s some uncertainty where the duo will play, with Woodgate keen to promote the club’s young prospects.

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Howson, who has predominantly played in midfield during his career, has filled in at right-back during pre-season, yet the arrival of Anfernee Dijksteel from Charlton puts his place under threat.

On the other side of defence, the emergence of Hayden Coulson and signing of Marc Bola has provided competition for the left-back berth.

It’s a position Friend has regularly occupied ever since his move to the Riverside in 2012, while the 31-year-old can also be moved into a centre-back role.

Can Boro tighten things up at the back? – Boro’s willingness to attack was a breath of fresh air at Luton yet you can’t ignore the vulnerabilities at the back.

Whether it means a change of personnel or more organisation work on the training pitch, Woodgate will need to find the right balance between the offensive and defensive sides of the game.

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