Nottingham Forest vs Middlesbrough Preview: How will Assombalonga fare on his return to The City Ground?

Nottingham Forest will be looking to get back to winning ways in The Championship as they take on newly-relegated Middlesbrough at The City Ground on Saturday afternoon.

Forest fell to their first defeat of the season in midweek as they lost 2-1 to Barnsley at Oakwell and will be looking to respond by claiming three points this weekend. 

As for Middlesbrough, they claimed their second consecutive league victory in midweek with a 2-0 win over struggling Burton Albion. They will be looking to build on this with their first away win of the season on Saturday. 

How they've fared so far

It has been a very positive start to the season for Mark Warburton's side despite suffering defeat on Tuesday night. They have so far won two out of their three league games and also progressed to the second round of the Carabao Cup.

However, the performances have been even more impressive than the results. Forest have been playing some superb football, especially offensively. The likes of Barrie McKay, Daryl Murphy, Andreas Bouchalakis and more have all arrived at the club this summer and have made an instant impact. 

The main issue for the Reds so far is that they have still been looking fragile defensively. This is something that was apparent throughout the whole of last season but still needs to be worked on. The two goals Forest conceded at Barnsley in midweek were very poor and arguably cost the Reds another three points.

Warburton has stated that he would like to bring in one or two more players before the transfer window slams shut at the end of the month and it would therefore be no surprise if these were defensive additions. If Forest can sort out their defensive problems, then they will go on to have a far more successful campaign than they did last time out. 

As for Middlesbrough, they appear to have now settled back into life in The Championship under new manager Garry Monk. Boro did lose their opening game 1-0 to Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux. However, Wolves' form since has shown that they could be one of the best sides in the division this season. 

Monk's side have responded to this defeat with back-to-back wins at the Riverside against Sheffield United and Burton Albion. However, neither of these victories were particularly comfortable and required Boro to really grind out the three points to get their season off to a good start. 

One of the main positives for Boro fans from their 2-0 win over Burton on Tuesday was that their £15 million signing Britt Assombalonga got off the mark for the season with a brace. It will certainly be interesting to see how the 24-year-old performs on his return to The City Ground as he is likely to get a hostile response from the home crowd. 

Assombalonga returns to The City Ground this weekend. (picture: Getty Images / Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA)
Assombalonga returns to The City Ground this weekend. (picture: Getty Images / Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA)

This game does appear to be one of the standout games in The Championship this week. If Forest can claim the three points, then it would really be a huge statement from Warburton's men. However, Boro are bound to prove a stern test and their attack could cause Forest's defence a lot of problems.

Last time they met 

Forest last played Boro in The Championship in a 1-0 win at the Riverside in January last year. Jamie Ward's goal twenty minutes from time was enough to claim the Reds all three points. It was a huge win for Dougie Freedman's side in a season in which Boro went on to secure promotion to the Premier League

However, Boro did have more success on their last visit to the City Ground. They secured a 2-1 victory courtesy of goals from David Nugent and Daniel Ayala and also a late penalty save from Dimi Konstantopoulos

Team news

Forest goalkeeper Stephen Henderson has been out of action for a significant amount of time with an achilles injury but may be fit enough to feature in Warburton's squad for this one. However, he will struggle to earn a place the starting line-up due to the impressive performances from youngster Jordan Smith

The only other absentee for the home side is midfielder Chris Cohen who is currently sidelined with a knee injury. However, Warburton has stated that it is not serious and that he should return to action very soon. 

As for Boro, Daniel Ayala could return from injury for this one after missing the last three games. The defender previously had a loan spell at The City Ground and is one of several players that will be looking forward to playing against their former club this weekend.

Garry Monk is expected to start with Assombalonga and Patrick Bamford upfront, both of whom have played for Forest in the past. It will certainly be interesting to see what reception these two players receive and how they perform.