The Build Up: Middlesbrough vs Brentford
Updated: Feb 6
New blood has been injected into the Boro attack over the last week, but it remains to be seen just how Neil Warnock will line-up in a clash against high-flying Brentford. Can Boro follow up on an impressive display against the league leaders Norwich, with a result against Thomas Frank’s Bees?
Deadline day saw wingers Neeskans Kebano and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing arrive on Teesside, each on a short-term basis until the end of the season, with Lewis Wing, Patrick Roberts and Nathan Wood departing. A lot of questions have been asked over the course of the season about Boro’s attacking prowess; could this be the spark that ignites Boro charge towards the play offs?
Up next for Boro is the visit of second-placed Brentford. The Bees find themselves on a run of 19 games unbeaten after scoring 10 in their last two games – a third of Boro’s total for the season!
English forward Ivan Toney sits comfortably as the league’s top scorer, and it will be up to Warnock’s trusted duo of Paddy McNair and Dael Fry to shut-out Brentford.
Darnell Fisher is likely to keep his position in the side to the right of the duo, despite the return to training of Anfernee Dijksteel, after his Man of the Match performance on his debut at Carrow Road. The full-back signed from Preston just a day before denying Norwich’s Todd Cantwell any breathing room, in Saturday’s 0-0 draw.
The mystery heading into the game is, how will Warnock line-up against the top scorers of the Championship? Last week’s debut striker Yannick Bolasie is joined by fellow DR Congo compatriot Neeskans Kebano, as new recruits for Boro, alongside free agent Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, a man Warnock knows very well from his time at Cardiff. It remains to be seen just how well the trio will fit into the team, and with Bolasie and Mendez-Laing having very limited game time, how match-fit they may be.
Warnock described the Norwich game as ‘a fitness programme’ for Bolasie and the Congolese forward struggled to leave his mark in an unusual striker role, so a return to the starting line-up for either Britt Assombalonga or Chuba Akpom would not come as a surprise.
All roads lead to Djed Spence and Marvin Johnson starting on the wings, but I could easily be disproved. The pair are usually the favoured choices against the attacking sides of the league, relied upon for their defensive capabilities and willingness to track the full backs, which they will need to do well to deny Brentford’s Rico Henry any space on the flank.
Should Spence and Johnson start, Boro may struggle for sustained pressure on the Brentford back-line but can offer a rigid time for the attacking abilities of the Bees.
Warnock may see fit for any of the newly signed trio to start, but do not be surprised to see them be utilised off the bench, certainly for this game.
It will be a tough game for Boro but should they take inspiration from the Norwich draw, a positive result is not out of the question.