Meet the opposition | Middlesbrough

13th December 2019
First team

As Swansea City prepare to face Middlesbrough on Saturday, here we take a closer look at the men from Teesside.

What’s their story?

Middlesbrough Ashley Fletcher

Having spent all bar one season between 1995 and 2009 in the Premier League, with a best finish of seventh in 2005, Middlesbrough have been in the Championship for 10 of the 11 campaigns since.

A brief return to the top-flight in 2016 saw them struggle in front of goal, coming straight back down with only five wins and 27 goals, the lowest recorded during that season.

They reached the play-offs in 2018 but missed out last term.

Boro famously reached the UEFA Cup final in 2006 while, in that successful 2004-05 season, they secured League Cup glory by beating Bolton in Cardiff.

The Riverside club also reached an FA Cup final during that time, but fell short against Chelsea in 1997, losing 2-0.

How’s their form?

Middlesbrough Daniel Ayala

Below par but showing signs of improvement. At the time of writing Boro have won just four games all season, only Barnsley (two) have recorded fewer in the second tier.

There have been nine draws too, but the Teessiders are only just above the Championship relegation zone and have struggled for goals.

Their recent win over Barnsley was the first for two months and they are yet to win on their travels this season, but a victory over Charlton and a point at Nottingham Forest in the last week have provided a lift.

Who’s the boss?

Middlesbrough Jonathan Woodgate

Jonathan Woodgate. The boyhood Boro fan succeeded Tony Pulis in the summer having been part of the backroom staff under the ex-Stoke boss.

This is his first senior managerial position for Woodgate, who enjoyed a fine playing career as a classy centre-half.

Starting his career with Leeds, Woodgate was soon capped by England and made a big-money move to Newcastle in 2003.

Injury stymied his time on Tyneside, but he soon made a move to Spanish giants Real Madrid, scoring an own goal and being sent off on his debut.

Settled into life at the Bernabeu but injuries struck again and he soon moved to Boro, before seeing out his career with Tottenham, Stoke and Middlesbrough again.

After hanging up his boots, he did some scouting for Liverpool before holding a number of coaching roles with his hometown club, eventually becoming the top boss.

Who are the key men?

Middlesbrough Britt Assombalonga

Strikers Britt Assombalonga and Ashley Fletcher have led the way in terms of goals for the Riverside men, the former Nottingham Forest man netting six to the four of ex-Sunderland forward Fletcher.

Their combined tally of nine league goals accounts for half of Middlesbrough’s total of 18.

They are not short of experience with Jonny Howson, Adam Clayton, Paddy McNair and Daniel Ayala all having spent some time at Premier League level.

Injury to keeper Darren Randolph has seen youngster Aynsley Pears start between the sticks in recent weeks.