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Middlesbrough: Jonathan Woodgate gives encouraging injury update on two defenders

Middlesbrough: Jonathan Woodgate gives encouraging injury update on two defenders

Middlesbrough manager Jonathan Woodgate provided an encouraging update on two injured players ahead of Saturday’s trip to Bristol City.

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Teesside Live reported quotes from Woodgate in which he hinted that defensive pair George Friend and Dael Fry could be in contention to feature at Ashton Gate this weekend, although Hayden Coulson remains out.

The manager told Teesside Live: “George Friend is touch and go again. George has got a quad injury from last season, there’s a bit of scar tissue in there which has been released. Hopefully he’ll be onwards and upwards from now.

“Dael was in the squad for Millwall and has had another upgrade of a week’s training and he’s been really good in training.” [via Teesside Live]

Friend missed all of pre-season for ‘Boro, being sidelined for four months after rupturing tendons in his thigh at Swansea last April, as reported by Teesside Live.

The 31-year-old has featured twice so far in the current campaign, playing in the Carabao Cup against Crewe and the league defeat at Blackburn, but he missed the subsequent games against Wigan and Millwall with a recurrence of that thigh problem.

Coulson’s absence means that Friend is likely to line out at left-back if he is fit for Saturday’s game, having played in that position at Ewood Park two weeks ago.

The 31-year-old had a largely solid outing that day, winning four tackles, making four clearances and embarking on two successful dribbles. [via WhoScored.com]

He also won three aerial duels against Blackburn, but that figure looks less impressive when considering that he contested 10 of them in the match. [via WhoScored.com]

Fry has yet to feature for the first team so far this season after tearing his hamstring in training towards the end of the 2018/19 campaign, as reported by Teesside Live, but he was deemed fit enough to be included in the squad for the Millwall game last week and played an hour for the under-23 side against Stoke two weeks ago.

The centre-back is strong in the air, having won 3.6 aerial duels per game last season, but can be careless in possession, with a passing success rate of just 69.4% in 2018/19.

Daniel Ayala and Ryan Shotton, the go-to centre-back pairing in recent weeks, both have better passing averages (76.2% and 77.5% respectively) than Fry, whose aerial duel success per game is trumped by Ayala’s 4.8 but better than Shotton’s 2.8.

Friend’s potential return this weekend should see him come in for Marc Bola at left-back, with the 21-year-old averaging just 0.5 aerial duels, 0.5 tackles and 2.5 clearances per game so far this term.

Fry, meanwhile, could be selected ahead of Shotton to deal with the aerial threat of Bristol City striker Benik Afobe, who already has three goals this season and has won 2.8 aerial duels per game so far in 2019/20.

Middlesbrough’s defence should be all the stronger for having Friend and Fry back in action and, if they are fit for Saturday, they both have strong cases to be included from the start.

Middlesbrough fans, do you think Friend and Fry should start against Bristol City if they are fit for the game? Join in the discussion by commenting below!

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