Championship

Middlesbrough: George Friend could feature against Wigan

Middlesbrough: George Friend could feature against Wigan

Middlesbrough defender George Friend could line out for Jonathan Woodgate’s team in tonight’s Championship fixture against Wigan at the Riverside Stadium despite a thigh problem.

BBC reported that the 31-year-old is in contention to play against the Latics tonight, with no new injury concerns emerging for ‘Boro.

However, according to BBC, Woodgate is deprived of the services of Dael Fry, Rudy Gestede and Hayden Coulson through injury for the match against Wigan.

The Middlesbrough captain was out of action for four months after rupturing tendons in his thigh away to Swansea towards the end of last season, as noted by Teesside Live.

He missed the first two games of the current campaign before returning to the team at centre-back for the Carabao Cup penalty shoot-out defeat to Crewe last week.

Friend was then given his first league start of the season at Ewood Park on Saturday, playing 83 minutes in the 0-1 defeat to Blackburn as he reverted to his more familiar left-back role.

The 31-year-old was Middlesbrough’s highest-rated player in that match according to WhoScored.com, his four successful tackles in the game the joint-most along with Ashley Fletcher.

Friend also made four clearances and and had two successful dribbles, but won just three of his 10 aerial duels. Sam Gallagher, who played opposite him as Blackburn’s right winger, had 14 successful aerial duels. [via WhoScored.com]

He is the third player to feature at left-back for ‘Boro already this season, with Coulson starting the first two Championship games and Marc Bola coming into the team against Crewe.

Coulson averaged three tackles and three interceptions per game in his appearances against Luton and Brentford, but won just two aerial duels and had a passing accuracy rate of just 66.7% on both games, misplacing 22 of his 66 passes. [via WhoScored.com]

Bola scored against Crewe but looked shaky at times throughout that game, with Anthony Vickers of Teesside Live saying that he was culpable of “some ragged passing” and was “caught cold for [Crewe’s] second goal“.

While Coulson had recorded some impressive defensive statistics in his recent outings, Friend has been notably more assured in possession and brings plentiful experience to the side, with 286 appearances for ‘Boro.

Although the 31-year-old was frequently beaten in the air against Blackburn, he is unlikely to be troubled to the same extent by Wigan’s right wingers, with Michael Jacobs winning just one aerial duel from that position against Preston recently and Gavin Massey not winning any against Leeds on Saturday.

Friend’s return to the squad following his thigh injury offers Middlesbrough a solid, experienced option who can adapt to multiple defensive roles and, with Coulson injured and Bola only making his first start for the club last week, his availability has spared Woodgate a serious left-back conundrum.

Middlesbrough fans, how vital do you think Friend is to the current squad? Give us your views by commenting below!

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