Middlesbrough vs Watford Preview: Victories needed for bottom-half duo

Aitor Karanka has told local paper the Gazette that this game is not a must win, but if his men do not start winning soon, they could be in major trouble.

Middlesbrough vs Watford Preview: Victories needed for bottom-half duo
Middlesbrough take on Watford in the Premier League (image source: James Griffiths/Getty Images)

Middlesbrough's return to the Premier League has been rather an underwhelming one to date.  

One win from seven led to changes in their most previous game with West Ham and even after taking the lead through a Cristhian Stuani header, Boro were pegged back by a Dimitri Payet goal and were forced to settle for a point.

Aitor Karanka's men come up against another London club in their return from the international break, when they will take on Watford. The Hornets are currently sitting 11th in the table, and will be looking to improve on their good start under Walter Mazzarri.

A fully fit Middlesbrough will face Watford

Karanka has all of his players to chose from for this fixture, bar one, with club captain Grant Leadbitter still recovering from the hernia operation he underwent in pre-season.

This could mean that Karanka changes his midfield partnership once again, with Adam Clayton looking for a recall. 

Adam Forshaw, though, will be hoping to keep his place in the side after an impressive display at the London Stadium almost a fornight ago. The former Everton midfielder was praised on Match of the Day last week for his adventurous passing and his willingness to start attacks for Boro.

Adam Forshaw has arguably been Middlesbrough's best player this season | Photo: Getty
Adam Forshaw has arguably been Middlesbrough's best player this season | Photo: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Defenders Fabio and Bernardo Espinosa are fully fit and are looking to get their first Premier League starts for Boro. The pair arrived on Teesside in the summer from Cardiff and Sporting Gijon respectively.

As for Watford, forward Isaac Success has recovered from a reported injury he picked up on international duty, with Mazzarri telling the official Watford website he was deciding whether or not to start the young Nigerian up front, and whether Troy Deeney or Odion Ighalo would miss out.

Possible teams

Middlesbrough playmaker, Gaston Ramirez, was dropped from the starting eleven for the game with West Ham, and didn't improve the side when he was subsitiuted in for Viktor Fischer.

The same can be said for Alvaro Negredo, and both he and Ramirez are expected to be benched for this match with Fischer and Jordan Rhodes continuing to play in the forward roles.

Ben Gibson looks set to continue in the heart of Middlesbrough's defence, but whether Karanka will continue to partner the Boro-born centre half with Calum Chambers or if he will reintroduce Daniel Ayala to the team is still to be seen.

Gibson's start to the season has had him considered for a possible England place, but is he in contention for the title of Middlesbrough's best academy product?

Watford look set to continue with Etienne Capoue in the centre of midfield alongside Valon Behrami who suffered an 'undisclosed knock' during the break. Capoue has scored four times this season and he will be looking to improve that record at the Riverside.

Troy Deeney, who has scored six times past Middlesbrough in previous matches, will captain the Hornets on Teesside.

Deeney's tally of six goals vs Boro is only matched by his total of six vs Leeds | Photo: Getty
Deeney's tally of six goals vs Boro is only matched by his total of six vs Leeds | Photo: Matthew Ashton Getty

Middlesbrough predicted XI: Valdes; Barragan, Chambers, Gibson, Friend; Forshaw, Clayton, Downing, Fischer; Stuani, Rhodes.

Watford predicted XI: Gomes; Zuniga, Britos, Kaboul, Holebas; Pereyra, Behrami, Capoue, Amrabat' Success, Deeney.