HEAD TO HEAD
With Middlesbrough tightening their belts ahead of the season, few expected The Teesiders to match last season's seventh-place finish but even fewer would have expected Boro to be embroiled in a relegation battle so long into the campaign.
Jonathan Woodgate took over from Tony Pulis in the summer and was tasked with improving Boro's style of play, while also blooding some of the Club's promising youngsters. In reality, that has proved to be a much more difficult task than many thought originally.
Boro won just two of their opening 17 Sky Bet Championship matches with a 2-2 draw at home to Hull City leaving them outside the bottom three on goal difference in late November. However, since then Boro have shown real shoots of revival.
A crucial 1-0 win over Barnsley following that Hull draw was backed up by a perfect haul from their four games over the festive period. Their New Year's Day win over Preston lifted them to within seven points of the Play-Offs but four winless Championship games since have left them in mid-table limbo heading into the final third of the term.
Middlesbrough born and bred, Woodgate began his career with his hometown club before moving to Leeds United at the age of 16. He made his debut at the age of 18 and amassed 142 appearances over the next five seasons before moving to Newcastle United. As injuries began to take their toll, he made just 37 appearances before an ill-fated spell at Real Madrid. He returned to the UK and Boro in 2006 but managed just 178 appearances over his final ten seasons with Boro, Tottenham Hotspur, Stoke, and then again on Teesside. The central defender also played eight times for England over a nine-year spell.
After a brief spell as an international scout for Liverpool in Spain and Portugal, Woodgate was appointed assistant coach to newly-appointed Middlesbrough caretaker manager Steve Agnew, following the dismissal of Aitor Karanka. After the club were relegated from the Premier League at the end of the season, Woodgate vacated his position and joined the club's Academy coaching staff. In December 2017, Woodgate returned to his previous position as first team assistant coach, under the management of Tony Pulis, whom he then replaced last June.
Thomas Frank has confirmed that Pontus Jansson will join Sergi Canos, Marcus Forss, and Nikos Karelis in missing tomorrow's game.
Defender Harold Moukoudi and midfielder Ravel Morrison could be handed their debuts while Ryan Shotton and George Friend are not ready to return to first-team action. Daniel Ayala (ankle), Anfernee Dijksteel (knee) and Patrick Roberts (hamstring) remain sidelined.
THOMAS' PRE-MATCH PRESS CONFERENCE
PRE-MATCH BUILD UP
🆚 Hot off the Press: Mark Drury previews tomorrow's opponents
⚖ Peter Bankes to take charge at Griffin Park
Tomorrow's game is SOLD OUT. Our Ticket Exchange is open, reselling returned tickets. Season Ticket Holders who can’t make the game can return their tickets here.
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HOW TO FOLLOW
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