Middlesbrough travel to Reading on Saturday aiming to bounce back from the frustration of suffering a 2-1 defeat at home to Blackpool last time out in the Championship.
It has been a slow start to the campaign for Neil Warnock’s side and Boro would have been hoping that their 2-0 win away at Nottingham Forest could have been the catalyst to kick start a positive run of form in the league.
That win at the City Ground came with all three of Onel Hernandez, Andraz Sporar and James Lea Siliki starting together for the first time for Middlesbrough.
Therefore, the fact that they ran out comfortable winners suggested that Warnock’s side could be positive about their potential to find some winning form.
Despite that though, the defeat against Blackpool showed that Middlesbrough still have a lot of work to do this season to get themselves in a position where they can mount a top-six challenge.
A trip to an improving Reading side who have won their last two Championship matches and beat Fulham last time out will be a major test for Middlesbrough.
However, Middlesbrough have won their last four matches away at Reading and have scored seven times and shipped just one goal in that period.
There are a few things that Warnock will be concerned about heading into the game in terms of potential injury issues, and it will be interesting to see what side he fields against the Royals.
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With that in mind, we take a look at the side that Middlesbrough could select at Reading on Saturday…
Warnock decided to switch to a 4-2-3-1 formation for Middlesbrough’s last two matches against Nottingham Forest and Blackpool to try and find the best setup to incorporate Boro’s new signings into the side. It is likely that he could stick with that shape for the trip to Reading.
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Joe Lumley is fully established as Middlesbrough’s first-choice goalkeeper in the Championship so far this season. The keeper will be hoping that he can record his third clean sheet of the campaign against the Royals.
In the full-back positions, Warnock faces a real dilemma with Anfernee Dijksteel having been forced off the field in the second half against Blackpool last weekend with a hamstring issue.
Boro have sent the defender for scans to assess the damage and extent of the injury, but it seems doubtful he will start here.
As a result, Lee Peltier could move back to his more natural right-back role. That could mean Marc Bola comes back into the side at left-back after he returned to first-team training during the week.
Paddy McNair also returned to training for Middlesbrough during the week. However, Warnock could opt to continue with the pairing of Dael Fry and Grant Hall against Reading and give the Northern Ireland international more time to fully recover.
At the base of midfield, Lea Siliki has started the last two games for Middlesbrough as he attempts to adjust to life in the Championship.
The midfielder is likely to keep his place against Reading and he could be paired once again with the experienced Johnny Howson.
Marcus Tavernier was moved somewhat surprisingly to right-back by Warnock when Dijksteel was forced off the field against Blackpool last time out.
However, after scoring Middlesbrough’s goal and also being one of their brightest attacking outlets, you would expect him to move back to the right-wing.
Meanwhile, Matt Crooks would be expected to keep his place in the side in the number ten position with Hernandez looking to cause issues for Reading’s defence from the left-hand side.
Upfront, Warnock could reintroduce Uche Ikpeazu to the starting line-up. However, that is unlikely given Sporar has not done anything to suggest he should be dropped to the bench in his first two league appearances for Boro.