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Not only is Middlesbrough’s total of 29 points from 20 games disappointing, a closer look at their recent form makes for very worrying reading. Having lost 3 of their last 4 games, the more pessimistic fans around Teesside are furious whereas other would point out that they have won 4 of their last seven.
The former group would be the better informed I feel, as you have to consider that Boro’s last three wins came against thoroughly beleaguered Hull City, Sunderland and Birmingham City, with the last two in completely unconvincing fashion.
They need to turn things around quickly and have an opportunity at home against Ipswich to do just that, though it will not be easy.
Adlene Guedioura is still out while Grant Leadbitter was omitted from the matchday squad at Bristol City last time and looks set for a spell on the sidelines, with the reasons known only to Garry Monk.
Monk is likely to stick with some familiar faces in a 4-2-3-1 formation:
The Irish international stopper may yet be replaced in January, with Monk clearly not being happy with his goalkeeping situation.
Will provide some much-needed width going forward down the right, though any slacking of his defensive duties can be punished by the visitors.
The centre-back is a target for various other clubs but for now, he can continue to partner Gibson.
One of the better players in this outfit, though they need more impetus going forward.
The ex-Man United man is not the player he was. May have a difficult time in keeping tabs on the runs of Martyn Waghorn, cutting inside from the Ipswich right.
Leadbitter is missing for some reason and so Forshaw may continue in the role.
The former Leeds and Norwich man undoubtedly has class but is perhaps not providing the sort of push from the midfield that Boro really need at present.
A true Boro man, but another player whose career is on the way down rather than up. He won’t be the man to drag them into the playoffs.
Seems to enjoy this central role and looks likely to start there once more.
The speed merchant still lacks a final ball and finishing touch. However, his direct runs alone are a positive and others can feed off them.
If a genuine chance comes his way, he’ll take it but I feel Boro need something unknown to surprise the opposition – the X-factor.