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Dijksteel starts: The predicted Middlesbrough XI to face Nottingham Forest on Boxing Day

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Middlesbrough will be hoping to extend their unbeaten league run to five this Boxing Day as they take on fellow promotion chasers Nottingham Forest at the Riverside.

Just one point separates the two sides at this stage, with both benefitting from new managers this season after underwhelming starts to their respective 2021/22 campaigns, especially visitors Forest who were bottom of the table before Steve Cooper’s arrival.

Despite switching up formations on occasions, a move that would unsettle many teams, the East Midlands outfit have been thriving under the Welshman and after losing just one of their 15 league matches under the 42-year-old’s stewardship, it would be hard to see them not force their way into the top six before the end of this term.

Quiz: Can you name which club Middlesbrough sold these 26 players to?

1 of 26

Yakubu

However, Boro have also been going about their business in an admirable manner as they continue to adapt to Chris Wilder’s style of play on Teesside, a way of playing that is seemingly getting the best out of many players at this stage including young wing-back Isaiah Jones.

Investing heavily in the summer, Wilder’s side will be expected to continue competing at the right end of the table for the remainder of the campaign, though they may need to add two or three further additions if they want to sustain their current promotion push.

Coming into this match after their 1-0 victory over automatic promotion contenders AFC Bournemouth last weekend, they will be full of confidence coming into another difficult game and have the home advantage at their disposal once again.

But will that be enough to secure them the three points? That will be tough to predict – but we have gone ahead and predicted what lineup 54-year-old Wilder could go with ahead of Sunday afternoon.

After regaining his status as Boro’s first-choice keeper from Luke Daniels, performing reasonably well in recent games, he deserves to keep his spot once again with Wilder likely to be reluctant to keep switching goalkeepers.

Neil Taylor also retains his starting spot after performing well on his debut in what was a very tough test last weekend, standing up to the challenge well in Marc Bola’s absence and proving why the Teesside club took a chance on him, with the impressive Isaiah Jones remaining on the other side after winning a penalty against the Cherries and continuing to look dangerous.

Despite the presence of Sol Bamba on the bench, one man that has stood out in some of their games earlier on in the season, it would be difficult to change the back three of Paddy McNair, Dael Fry and Anfernee Dijksteel at this stage.

The latter may have to get used to playing in a more central role with Jones performing well and Djed Spence potentially returning from Nottingham Forest next month, depending on whether they want to trigger that option.

Jonny Howson continues as a holding midfielder, a role he seems to suit and that will allow the likes of Marcus Tavernier and Matt Crooks to push on, two attacking threats who can make things happen in the final third and help to take pressure off the forwards.

Crooks was a brilliant signing from old boss Neil Warnock in the summer. Not only can he push on, but he can sit deeper and he rightly remains as one of the first names on the teamsheet at Boro.

He, along with Tavernier, will know they need to maintain their current performance levels if they are to keep Martin Payero out of the starting lineup though, which should help to push them to new levels.

You almost feel we haven’t seen the best of the duo yet despite bright displays.

Up top, the pair of Duncan Watmore and Andraz Sporar seem like nailed on starters with Uche Ikpeazu not getting much of a sniff at this stage.

This is no surprise perhaps, with the ex-Wycombe Wanderers and Hearts forward being made available for a transfer ahead of the upcoming window, according to Football Insider.


A 21-year-old Reading FC fan and writer who graduated from the University for the Creative Arts in the summer with a degree in Journalism and Media Production. Other topics written about include politics, mental health and education.

ScoopDragon Football News Network

Article title: Dijksteel starts: The predicted Middlesbrough XI to face Nottingham Forest on Boxing Day

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