Three to watch - Middlesbrough

THE R’s face a tough test on Saturday when heading up north to play a Middlesbrough side who have yet to concede a goal at the Riverside this season. Boro were, of course, in the Premier League last year but have managed to hang on to some of their prized assets. Two of them will likely be on show in this weekend’s match and make our scouting report of those to look out for in this fixture as well as their record £14 summer signing.

Ben Gibson

Strengths:

  • Tackling
  • Heading
  • Distribution

Weaknesses:

  • Pace

Perhaps Middlesbrough’s most impressive bit of business during the summer transfer window was somehow managing to keep hold of their much sought after defender. Rated by many as the best centre half in the division Gibson brings a calmness and strong mentality to Garry Monk’s defence. The 24-year-old is outstanding in the air but no slouch on the deck either – capable of playing out from the back in a cultured manner. If there’s one weakness to the defender’s game it’s that he can be vulnerable to pace and movement.

Britt Assombalonga

Strengths:

  • Acceleration
  • Movement
  • Finishing 

Weaknesses:

  • Heading

Club-record signing Britt Assombalonga will likely lead the line for Boro when the two teams meet on Saturday. The £14 million purchase has already found the net four times this season and will look to play on the last shoulder of defence – using his acceleration and clever movement to beat the offside trap – something the R’s backline will have to be aware of. Not only is the former Peterborough man clinical inside the box but his exceptional work-rate and will to run the channels always give Middlesbrough an outlet to launch fast counter attacks. 

Adam Clayton

Strengths

  • Passing
  • Stamina
  • Interceptions

Weaknesses

  • Not a goal scoring threat

Sitting at the base of the Middlesbrough midfield lies one of their most consistent performers over the last few seasons. A tireless worker who is capable of switching play with an array of short and long range passing whilst also being fantastic at sniffing out the opposition when they are on the attack. Clayton has often been deployed between the midfield and centre back’s this term – in a similar role to which Grant Hall was often used by Ian Holloway last season. Whilst Clayton brings a lot of qualities to Garry Monk’s side the R’s defence will be very disappointed if he finds himself on the score-sheet having previously only netted once in 140 games for the Teesiders.