Middlesbrough manager Jonathan Woodgate has identified Lukas Jutkiewicz and Danny Crowley as two players his side must stop when they take on Birmingham City at The Riverside Stadium on Friday night.
Birmingham go into the game 14th in the Championship following three straight league defeats, but Woodgate is still wary of the challenge The Blues will pose his side.
Speaking about Birmingham in his pre-match conference, Woodgate was quoted by The Hartlepool Mail as saying: “Inconsistent, but they are still a threat.”
One player who Woodgate was keen to highlight was his former Middlesbrough teammate Lukas Jutkiewicz.
The striker, who scored 15 goals in 71 appearances in all competitions for ‘Boro between 2012 and 2014, is Birmingham’s top scorer this season with three league goals, and speaking about the 30-year-old, Woodgate added: “They’ve got big Jutkiewicz who is a threat up front who I played with at Middlesbrough and he’s a real handful.”
Discussing the other threats that Birmingham could pose on Friday, Crowley, who joined The Blues from Willem II in the summer transfer was another one pointed out by Woodgate, as The ‘Boro boss continued: “They’ve got some good players, Danny Crowley in midfield. They are a direct team so it’s going to be a tough game, we need to stand up and be counted.”
Following their 1-1 draw at home to Preston on Tuesday, Middlesbrough go into the clash with Birmingham 20th in the Championship, having taken two wins and four draws from their opening ten games of the season.
I think this is probably a fair analysis from Woodgate.
While he may not have been quite as prolific as he was last season, Jutkiewicz’ physical presence and proven finishing ability means that he is not a player Middlesbrough can take lightly on Friday.
Likewise Crowley could be a dangerous prospect from midfield, and it may even be his supply to Jutkiewicz that unlocks ‘Boro’s defence, meaning this is certainly a duo they need to keep an eye on at The Riverside.
With Birmingham surely desperate to bounce back from that recent poor run, they may see slow starting Middlesbrough as an opportunity to do just that, meaning Woodgate’s side may have little margin for error against The Blues.