Meet the opposition: Middlesbrough

20th September 2018
First team

​​​​​​​As Swansea City get set for a trip to Middlesbrough on Saturday (3pm), we take a closer look at the men from the Riverside Stadium.

Who are they?

Middlesbrough were a Premier League club between 1995 and 2009, but they have become accustomed to life in the Championship since relegation nine years ago.

They made a long-awaited return to the top flight in 2016 but a season of struggle followed and they went straight back down having picked up just five wins and scored 27 goals, the lowest in the league that season.

Their best Premier League finish was seventh the 2004-05 season.

The following year saw them reach the final of the Uefa Cup, but they were beaten 4-0 by Sevilla.

They have had more joy domestically in 2004, when they beat Bolton in the League Cup final in Cardiff.

They were twice League Cup runners-up in the 1990s, when they also reached an FA Cup final, but the priority now is to get back into the Premier League.

 

How’s their form?

Boro have the best defensive record in the division, having conceded only three goals so far and kept six clean sheets.

They began their campaign in dramatic style, scoring two late goals in a 2-2 draw at Millwall.

They followed up the result with an emphatic 3-0 win over Sheffield United, before going on to beat Birmingham, Bristol City and West Brom.

Their winning run came to an end with a 0-0 draw at Leeds, before a first loss of the season at Norwich City last weekend.

But they bounced back by beating Bolton 2-0 in midweek.

 

Who’s their boss?

Tony Pulis. After leaving West Brom in November last year, Pulis took over at the Riverside on Boxing Day following the departure of former Swans’ boss Garry Monk.

Capped by Wales at youth level, Pulis became a qualified FA coach at the age of 19 before picking up his Uefa A licence aged just 21, making him one of the youngest professional players to have gained the qualification.

Pulis’ playing career ended with a stint as player-coach Bournemouth in 1992, where he was mentored by Harry Redknapp before taking on the manager’s job when he left.

He has vast managerial experience having been in charge at Gillingham, Bristol City, Portsmouth, Stoke (twice), Plymouth and Crystal Palace before joining West Brom.

 

Who are the key men?

Boro have a former Swan in their ranks in goalkeeper Dimitrios Konstantopoulos, though he is unlikely to feature as Irish international Darren Radolph is Boro’s current No. 1.

The likes of George Friend, Ryan Shotton and Daniel Ayala are well-established Championship defenders, as are summer signings Aden Flint, who joined from Bristol City, and Danny Batth, who came from Wolves.

Ex-England man Stewart Downing is still a key figure in the Middlesbrough side thanks to his quality, while the signing of Mohamed Besic on loan from Everton has given Boro a boost in midfield.

Jonny Howson is a proven performer at this level, as is Adam Clayton.

Pulis has plenty of good options up front, including Danish international Martin Braithwaite, former Forest man Britt Assombalonga and on-loan West Ham striker Jordan Hugill.