Following a disappointing end to last term, Michael Beale’s side will be hoping to get into a good run of form sooner rather than later so they can forget about their woes under former boss Mark Warburton.
However, this will be easier said than done considering the level of opposition they face today, with Chris Wilder’s Boro aiming to claim their first league victory of the season.
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They will potentially be disappointed that they weren’t able to claim three points after taking the lead against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday evening – but they will also acknowledge that the Baggies are likely to be competing at the top end of the division during the 2022/23 campaign.
And they will also be wary that their transfer business isn’t anywhere near completed yet, with a replacement for Marcus Tavernier needed as well as one or two more strikers to provide them with more depth in this department.
Taking a closer look at both sides though, we have picked three things you should be looking out for during tomorrow’s tie at Loftus Road.
Wilder’s centre-back selection
Although Dael Fry’s fitness issues gave Wilder an easier task in terms of picking his starting centre-backs last weekend, the 24-year-old is likely to be in a better state now and that will give Boro’s boss a choice to make.
The back three is set in stone, that can’t be doubted. But it remains to be seen who out of Darragh Lenihan, Marc Bola and Anfernee Dijksteel come out of the starting lineup if they do, with Fry potentially able to play a full 90.
You would think Bola would be the man to be withdrawn considering Lenihan’s leadership skills and the fact Dijksteel was one of the first names on the teamsheet last term – but that remains to be seen.
It’s also unclear whether Paddy McNair will be fit enough to start after serving his one-match suspension against Steve Bruce’s side. He picked up an injury in pre-season though, so he may not be fit enough to play the full game even if he has recovered from that setback with minutes needed in his legs.
Either way, it will definitely be interesting to see who starts and who has to drop to the bench.
Going with a back four last week, that meant Jimmy Dunne missed out in favour of Rob Dickie and Jake Clarke-Salter, though it could be argued that the latter two are better ball-playing defenders.
Still, Dunne was probably one of the R’s best performers during the 2021/22 campaign and with this, his presence could potentially be needed at the heart of their defence for them to remain as solid as possible.
In fairness, they were undone by a wonder strike last Saturday and they couldn’t do much about that – but it will certainly be fascinating to see whether Beale sticks or twists with his current system.
There’s no need to panic yet and this is why the former Aston Villa assistant head coach will probably opt to stick with the same system – but he may decide to change at some point with his side already accustomed to a back-three setup.
Forss’ full debut
It would be difficult to see new signing Marcus Forss not make his first start for Boro tomorrow, especially with Duncan Watmore suffering with fitness issues at this stage.
That could mean the Finn operates alongside Chuba Akpom – and it will be interesting to see how the two combine – especially with both having a point to prove for different reasons.
Akpom was previously told he could find a new club earlier this summer – and Forss suffered a reasonably underwhelming loan spell at Hull City during the second half of last season.
Considering he was attracting interest from a considerable number of clubs during the winter, the forward will have been disappointed not to have made more of an impact at the MKM Stadium, recording just one goal and one assist in 11 league appearances.
He may also have to do a considerable amount to retain a starting spot on Teesside with Wilder potentially bringing in two more forwards before the summer window closes – and these arrivals aren’t likely to be cheap ones with the club having the money they generated from Djed Spence and Tavernier’s sales.