The inside track on Middlesbrough ahead of Leeds United clash - including the resurgence of Jonny Howson and a potential weak link

Leeds United welcome Middlesbrough to Elland Road this evening in a battle of the early Championship pace-setters. Ahead of the televised clash, we spoke to Mark Donnelly from the Hartlepool Mail to get the inside track on Middlesbrough. This is what he had to say...

Friday, 31st August 2018, 8:55 am
Updated Friday, 31st August 2018, 9:46 am
This is what Leeds United should expect from Middlesbrough

It's sure to be a tough test for Marcelo Bielsa's side as they face a Boro side heavily tipped for promotion this season - and who will be keen to continue their unbeaten start to the season.

And the good news for Leeds United is that there is a potential weak link in Tony Pulis' side.

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This is what Leeds United should expect from Middlesbrough

How well have Middlesbrough been playing recently?

Having been heavily tipped for promotion during pre-season, Middlesbrough have lived up to their billing thus far and remain unbeaten so far.

A disappointing opening day draw at Millwall has been followed up with a string of positive results.

Performances have, at times, been scrappy rather than spectacular - and Boro's most recent league triumph over West Brom perhaps epitomised that - but Tony Pulis's side are starting to prove their credentials at this early stage.

Who have been Middlesbrough’s key players this season, and what should we expect to see from them?

Middlesbrough's stand-out performer has arguably been Martin Braithwaite - a Danish international striker who spent the summer at the World Cup.

He's looked lively up top during his early outings, but is unlikely to feature at Elland Road as he nears a move to Spanish side Leganes.

Alongside Braithwaite, it's a familiar name to Leeds United fans who has stood out in Boro's opening games.

Jonny Howson has been superb in the centre of the park and - as he returns to his former club - will no doubt be keen to continue to his own personal form on Friday evening.

What kind of line-up should fans expect to see when Middlesbrough play Leeds? Are there are any injury doubts or selection headaches?

Pulis will likely opt for the 3-5-2 formation he has utilised throughout this campaign, but could make some changes to personnel.

As previously mentioned, Braithwaite could be out which could see new signing (and former reported Leeds target) Jordan Hugill handed a first league start after his move from West Ham.

Fellow loanee Mo Besic will also be pushing for a starting berth, meaning that Pulis could have a few selection headaches ahead of this clash.

Are there are any noticable weak links which Leeds will be looking to exploit?

Boro have looked fairly solid this season, but questions could be asked of Ryan Shotton.

Playing in an unfamiliar right wing-back role, the former Stoke man could well be targeted as he looks to combine defensive stability with providing an attacking outlet.

He's coped well so far, but Leeds' attacking schemers could prove a different proposition.

What kind of home/away support should we expect to see turn out at Elland Road?

Middlesbrough will be backed by a vocal away support and - with the game set to be played under the lights - it looks to be an atmospheric evening at one of the country's finest grounds.

Prediction time! What kind of game are you expecting when Leeds play Middlesbrough and what do you think the final score will be?

It will be tight. Much has been made of the differences in the respective styles of play on show and Boro's more resilient approach could combat Leeds' free-flowing football.

I'll go for a 1-0 Middlesbrough win in an edgy affair.

Is there anything else that Leeds fans should know about Middlesbrough?

Watch out for set pieces. With a long-throw specialist, numerous dead ball experts and plenty of height in the side, they often prove to be a real asset for Middlesbrough.