Wolves v Middlesbrough Preview: Two promotion favourites set for Championship opener

Two of the Championship’s promotion favourites will go head-to-head at Molineux tomorrow when Wolves host Middlesbrough in an intriguing opening day clash.

Both sides have new managers for the upcoming campaign, after Boro appointed the highly-rated Garry Monk while Wolves landed former Valencia and Porto manager Nuno Espírito Santo.

Following their relegation from Premier League, Boro chairman Steve Gibson has backed his manager heavily in the transfer market, enabling Monk to bring in seven new players.

Among the new arrivals is record signing Britt Assombalonga, who moved to Teesside from Nottingham Forest for a reported £15 million.

Wolves, too, have spent considerable money in this window, forking out £15.8 million, a Championship record, to acquire the services of 20-year-old midfielder Ruben Neves from Porto.

For the aforementioned reasons, both clubs will have high expectations for the new campaign.

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How they'll line up

Monk has tried range of formations during pre-season, however his team selection in Boro’s 2-1 victory over FC Ausgburg last weekend was significant.

The Boro boss deployed an attacking 4-3-3 formation in his side’s final friendly of the summer, with Assombalonga, Patrick Bamford and Martin Braithwaite making up a narrow forward line.

Boro’s width came from their full-backs, with George Friend and Cyrus Christie bombing forward at every opportunity.  

Meanwhile, combative midfielder Adam Clayton brought a balance to the side, shielding the back four and dropping back into defence.

Wolves were good value in their 1-0 over Leicester last Saturday, with Ivan Cavaleiro’s 59th minute goal proving the difference.

Santo’s side started the match in a 3-4-3 formation, with Matt Doherty and Barry Douglas occupying the full back roles and Neves playing the anchor role in midfield.

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Team news

Monk should have a fully fit side to choose from ahead of his side’s trip to Molineux.

Centre-back Ben Gibson was forced off with a calf injury against Ausgburg but is still likely to start, amid speculation over a move to West Brom.

Jonny Howson, Martin Braithwaite, Christie and Assombalonga will all be expected to make their competitive debuts after joining Boro over the summer.

Wolves striker Nouha Dicko missed last weekend’s game but could return after picking up a knock in pre-season.

Winger Hélder Costa is out with ankle injury while Phil Ofosu-Ayeh and Ben Marshall both have hip issues.

Meanwhile, Cavaleiro, the match-winner against Leicester, is suspended after being sent off against Derby at the end of last season.

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Boro have won their last four games against Wolves, three of which came in the league.

The last time the sides met at Molineux was in 2015 when Boro came from behind to record a 3-1 victory – courtesy of goals from Diego Fabbrini, Grant Leadbitter and Stewart Downing.

Even so, Boro have won just one of their last eight opening day fixtures, beating Birmingham 2-0 in 2014.

In contrast, Wolves have triumphed in four of their last seven openers, drawing two and losing one.