Championship

Middlesbrough: Jonathan Woodgate set to ring the changes for Carabao Cup meeting with Crewe

Middlesbrough: Jonathan Woodgate set to ring the changes for Carabao Cup meeting with Crewe

Middlesbrough manager Jonathan Woodgate is likely to make a multitude of changes to his starting line-up for tonight’s Carabao Cup first-round meeting with Crewe at Riverside Stadium.

The Northern Echo reported that defender George Friend is due to make his first appearance of the season tonight after missing the Championship games against Luton and Brentford following a summer of attempting to regain full fitness.

According to The Northern Echo, summer arrivals Marc Bola, Anfernee Dijksteel and Marcus Browne will all come into the starting line-up for the game against Crewe also.

Woodgate told The Northern Echo: “There’ll definitely be changes for the cup game. There are a few players who need to play, and we’ve also got a few who could probably do with the rest.”

And, Middlesbrough’s official Twitter account also posted comments from Woodgate which pretty much mirrored what the Northern Echo stated. Here’s what he had to say: “There’ll definitely be changes. Three of the new signings will play in the game because I need to look at them”

Club captain Friend is set to return after making 43 appearances in total last season, including 38 in the Championship and two in the Carabao Cup.

Interestingly, his last six games for ‘Boro were all in a six-game losing run last March and April. He did not feature in the final six matches of the season, five of which the Teessiders won.

Middlesbrough let in five goals in the eight Championship games that he missed in 2018/19, just 0.62 goals per game. They conceded 36 times in Friend’s 38 league appearances, a rate of 0.95 goals per game.

Like Friend, Bola could play at either left-back or centre-back. He is most likely to take up the former of those roles, where he has started the vast majority of his career appearances, with Friend playing in the centre.

The 21-year-old also played 43 games in total last season, scoring twice and providing three assists for Blackpool.

The Tangerines shipped 14 goals in the 11 League One games in which he didn’t feature last season, 1.27 goals per game. In Bola’s 35 league appearances, they conceded 38 goals, a rate of 1.09 goals per game.

Right-back Dijksteel, who joined from Charlton, played 39 times for the Addicks last season, including 33 in their League One promotion campaign.

In those 33 games, Charlton let in 32 goals, 0.97 per game. Without him in the team, they conceded 13 goals in 16 games, 0.81 per game.

Attacking midfielder Browne played 44 times on loan at Oxford from West Ham in 2018/19, scoring nine goals (0.2 per game) and providing five assists (0.11 per game).

While Middlesbrough fans know all about what Friend can do after 284 club appearances, it should be intriguing to see how newcomers Bola, Dijksteel and Browne get on.

Woodgate is set to reshuffle his defence drastically if those players all start and, with four goals conceded in two Championship games, there is an opportunity for the newcomers to push for starting berths.

Opportunity also beckons for Browne, who has been restricted to just two substitute appearances totalling 35 minutes so far for ‘Boro. A game against League Two opposition should offer him the ideal chance to have a telling influence on Middlesbrough’s attack.

Middlesbrough fans, what are your thoughts on tonight’s expected team changes? Comment below with your views!

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