Middlesbrough manager Jonathan Woodgate has suggested that both George Friend and Ryan Shotton could both be back in action for Boro on Saturday when they host Luton Town, while he also updated the progress of Daniel Ayala, Dael Fry and Anfernee Dijksteel.
Woodgate’s side have been without Shotton since he suffered an ankle injury at the end of October, while Friend has missed most of the season so far through a combination of hip and thigh problems – and Boro will be needing the pair to return to action to help boost their squad ahead of the rest of the campaign.
Both Friend and Shotton, though, were able to make a return to action for the club’s under-23s in a friendly against Celtic’s under-23s earlier in the week, and having come through that with no negative effects to their respective injuries they could both potentially come back into the side against Luton.
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Speaking in his press conference ahead of Middlesbrough’s game against Luton on Saturday, Woodgate suggested that both Friend and Shotton could make a return to action, while also suggesting that Ayala should be back in the next few weeks and Dijksteel could be back to fitness next week.
He said: “George [Friend] is back, Ryan Shotton is back, and Dael Fry is OK which is good.
“They’ve played 60 minutes, 90 minutes and ticked every box – and they have a lot of experience.
“Dani Ayala has three or four weeks yet, but Dijksteel will hopefully be back next week, hopefully we can organise a couple of friendlies and get him involved.
“If you look at the statistics, we’ve made the least amount of substitutions in the league and that is probably due to a lack of options at times.
“It just shows that in the Championship you need a big squad to cope.”
This is a really encouraging update from Woodgate ahead of Middlesbrough’s clash with struggling Luton, as he looks to get his side back into the sort of form they showed over the festive period, which saw them move themselves away from the relegation zone.
Friend’s experience has been a real miss for Boro throughout the campaign, with the left-back suffering a frustrating season so far, but the defender could still have a major part to play for Woodgate’s side if he can remain fit.
Middlesbrough have also been really missing the presence of Shotton over the last few months, and the defender’s return will offer Woodgate more options to change his defence when he feels he needs to, and that could help them tighten up at the back again, after they have started conceding a few too many goals in recent weeks.
Another important player to return to action when he does is Ayala, with Middlesbrough’s form dipping since he was ruled out through injury, and if he can get back fit and playing like he was over the festive period then he could have a major say on getting Boro back on track.