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Taylor starts: The predicted Middlesbrough XI to face Sheffield United on New Years Day

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Chris Wilder returns to Bramall Lane tomorrow afternoon as he takes his Middlesbrough side to face old club Sheffield United in the early kick-off, hoping for a bittersweet victory and three points to take back to Teesside.

The 54-year-old’s men are currently unbeaten in their previous six games under his stewardship, adapting to the ex-Blades boss’ style of play well and managing to maximise their points return despite facing some challenging games recently.

Overcoming two very capable opponents in automatic promotion contenders AFC Bournemouth and an in-form Nottingham Forest team, they then went on to snatch a last-minute winner at Bloomfield Road against Blackpool on Wednesday evening, giving them real momentum coming into this tie.

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

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However, this test won’t be easy for Boro, with upcoming opponents United currently in a very similar position to them and having plenty of time to rest and recover after seeing their recent matches against Preston North End and Hull City postponed due to Covid-19 cases.

The Blades have won their last four matches, going unbeaten in five and keeping clean sheets in four of these games, thriving since the previous international break and seemingly setting themselves on the right course under new manager Paul Heckingbottom.

This sets up a very tough test for Wilder’s men as they make the trip to South Yorkshire – but who will be given the responsibility of guiding tomorrow’s visitors to what could be a crucial victory to assert themselves as top-six candidates?

We have predicted the starting lineup the Teesside club’s manager is likely to go with.

Having taken over from Luke Daniels and performed well enough, Joe Lumley retains his spot between the sticks, a big relief for him after starting the season as Boro’s number one being before dropped.

The back three also remains the same with Jonny Howson’s availability yet to be confirmed, with Sol Bamba remaining at the heart of defence at the expense of Grant Hall who looks set to remain on the bench.

In fairness, the latter could be well utilised as a fresh pair of legs from the start, but stability in the back three could be key and that’s why Wilder may not decide to roll the dice in the centre.

The one change from the Blackpool match comes at left wing-back with Neil Taylor coming back in for Lee Peltier, who didn’t do too much wrong but for attacking intent, the former may be the preferred option after being rested in midweek.

Welshman Taylor will be joined by the bright Isaiah Jones on the right, who put in yet another superb performance against Neil Critchley’s men and showed how crucial he is to the cause when he put in a strong challenge in stoppage time for Duncan Watmore to guide home.

With Howson potentially still out, Paddy McNair retains his place in the middle of the park alongside Matt Crooks and Marcus Tavernier.

Although McNair can fit into the midfield seamlessly, the fact James Lea Siliki didn’t start, as suspected, is a damning indictment of his time at the Riverside so far. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him head for the exit deal in January if he pushes for an early return to Stade Rennais.

Up top, Onel Hernandez seems to be the preferred option alongside Andraz Sporar at this stage with Watmore coming on as an impact substitute, so that may remain the case tomorrow even with the latter scoring a crucial winner in stoppage time in their last outing.

Expect one of Sporar or Watmore to get on the scoresheet though – because both have been in scintillating form recently and are both thriving under their new boss.


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: Taylor starts: The predicted Middlesbrough XI to face Sheffield United on New Years Day

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