Middlesbrough face Coventry City at the Riverside Stadium this evening, where the winners will earn a trip to Wembley to face Luton Town in the Championship playoff final.
A 0-0 draw in the away leg last week has left Michael Carrick’s side as favourites to progress but their poor end to the season will need to be addressed against Mark Robins’ side if they are going to secure victory on Wednesday night.
Last week’s stalemate means that Boro have won just two of their last nine games in the second tier, a run which included a 1-1 draw with the Sky Blues on the final day of the normal season.
Although Carrick’s side would dominate possession in the away leg and had the best chance of the game when Chuba Akpom’s effort was deflected onto the crossbar, they struggled to create many clear-cut opportunities, so changes could be on the cards ahead of this evening.
How should Middlesbrough line up against Coventry tonight?
There could be three changes from the side that started in the first leg last week.
Zak Steffen has been the main man between the sticks for the vast majority of the season and he looks unlikely to lose his spot after a rare clean sheet last time out.
In a similar vein, Carrick would perhaps be foolish to alter a defence that limited Coventry’s attack, and perhaps most importantly Viktor Gyokeres, to very little in the 0-0 draw.
Therefore, Tommy Smith and Ryan Giles keep their place at right-back and left-back respectively, with Darragh Lenihan and Paddy McNair continuing their partnership in the heart of the defence.
There is one change from Carrick in the centre of midfield, as Matt Crooks could provide more physicality and more of a goal threat than Alex Mowatt, so he starts alongside Hayden Hackney in the middle of the park.
Equally, last week’s game saw Marcus Forss make his return from injury and after hitting ten goals and five assists in the Championship this season, he comes in for Isaiah Jones on the right-hand side, with Riley McGree on the opposite flank.
The final change sees Chuba Akpom pushed into the central striker role in place of the “fantastic” Cameron Archer – as previously dubbed by Ryan Lowe – in order to accommodate the return of fellow Aston Villa loanee Aaron Ramsey, who could make his return from injury at the Riverside tonight.
Predicted Middlesbrough XI (4-2-3-1): Steffen, Smith, McNair, Lenihan, Giles, Crooks, Hackney, Forss, Ramsey, McGree, Akpom