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[Image] Can Pulis’ men get back to winning ways? – Predicted 3-5-2 Middlesbrough XI to face Leeds United

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Predicted Middlesbrough line-up to face Leeds United in the Championship

Middlesbrough will be looking to get back to winning ways when they face off against EFL Championship title contenders Leeds United on Saturday afternoon at the Riverside Stadium.

The Teessiders were handed a shock 2-0 defeat by lower-league outfit Newport County in their FA Cup fourth-round replay on Tuesday night. Following that, Tony Pulis’ side will be aiming to bounce back with a strong performance against Marcelo Bielsa’s team this weekend.

The last time these two teams met, was back in September last year at the Elland Road. That game ended in a goalless draw. Currently, in the fifth position in the table, Boro have a chance to move into the fourth place, should they win and West Brom drop points.

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Jordan Hugill and Britt Assombalonga came off with some minor problems during the game against Newport County, but are expected to be ready for the weekend. Lewis Wing is carrying a groin injury and is a doubt, while George Saville, who missed the FA Cup tie with an ankle problem, could miss out again.

Here’s how Middlesbrough line up against the Whites on Saturday afternoon:

Predicted Middlesbrough XI

Manager: Tony Pulis

Formation: 3-5-2

Darren Randolph (GK)

Having been left out of the cup tie against Newport County, the former West Ham United goalkeeper should return to the starting line-up on Saturday.

Daniel Ayala (CB)

The Spanish centre-half did not have the best of nights against Newport on Tuesday and needs to step it up against the second-placed team in the league this weekend.

Aden Flint (CB)

The summer signing also endured a forgettable outing in the cup tie, but has been a reliable performer for the Teessiders at the back and should feature from kick-off again.

Dael Fry

Dael Fry (CB)

The young defender has been a regular in the lineup for Boro this term and should hold on to his place in the three-man backline on Saturday afternoon.

Ryan Shotton (RWB)

The 30-year-old should feature as the right wing-back for Pulis’ side and will have the task of keeping the Leeds United wide players in check.

Jonny Howson (CM)

He has featured in every Championship match for the Teesside outfit this season and has contributed with five assists. Howson should be in line for a starting berth against the Peacocks.

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John Obi Mikel

John Obi Mikel (CM)

The former Chelsea midfielder started in the league win over West Brom last weekend but wasn’t involved in the cup tie. His experience can come in handy for Boro in this crucial match.

Muhamed Besic (CM)

Besic was another midfielder who wasn’t part of the starting XI for the Teesside outfit on Tuesday night. The on-loan Evertonian should be in line for a start on Saturday.

George Friend (LWB)

The 31-year-old is the only specialist left-back at Pulis’ disposal and should feature once again from kick-off against Marcelo Bielsa’s side this weekend.

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Jordan Hugill

Jordan Hugill (ST)

The 26-year-old is a regular fixture in attack for the home team and has scored seven times in all competitions this term. He is expected to start in Saturday’s game against Leeds.

Read More: Middlesbrough should have signed this Hull City star on deadline day – would have been a brilliant capture

Britt Assombalonga (ST)

The former Nottingham Forest forward had little impact against Newport County but had scored a brace against West Brom last week. His heroics of last weekend should warrant him a starting berth on Saturday.

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EFL Championship

Leeds would bag a massive coup by signing this former Spanish U21 star to enhance midfield quality – Agreed?

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Leeds United Opinion: Whites should sign Ruben Pardo in the summer

According to claims from Spanish source, El Gol Digital, Leeds United are interested in signing La Liga midfielder Ruben Pardo, with manager Marcelo Bielsa keen on bringing the Real Sociedad star to Elland Road if he managed to guide the team to promotion.

The same report claims that Leeds are likely to provide Bielsa with a handsome transfer budget in the summer should he manage to bring Premier League football back to Elland Road after a prolonged absence of 15 years from the top flight.

A former U21 international for Spain, Ruben Pardo has been with his boyhood club for his entire youth and senior career so far, accumulating 6 goals and 33 assists from 187 appearances for the La Liga outfit. However, the 26-year-old has fallen out of favour in recent years and reports claim that he might be on his way out of the club after starting just 10 games in the La Liga this term.

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Meanwhile, Leeds are just four games away from making it back to the Premier League. Bielsa’s charismatic stewardship has been instrumental in transforming the club’s fortunes and the fans will be hoping that there are no further slip-ups in the sying stages of the campaign, with the Whites sitting in the automatic promotion places.

Undoubtedly, ecuring promotion to the Premier League would be a massive feat for Leeds but they would need to bring in a few fresh faces in the summer to build a squad capable to beating the drop in the top flight. While attacking reinforcements are likely to be high on the manager’s wishlist for the summer, bringing in a quality central midfielder would certainly boost Leeds’ squad depth, and Pardo perfectly fits the bill.

Bielsa has preferred a 4-1-4-1 system in the Championship this season, with Kalvin Phllips playing at the base of the midfield and the likes of Mateusz Klich and Tyler Roberts adopting an attacking role.

The departure of Samuel Saiz to Getafe in January has forced the manager to play Tyler Roberts, who is essentially a striker, in the midfield, while the Whites are unlikely to keep Chelsea loanee Izzy Brown beyond the end of the season after his struggle with a long-term injury. Hence, it is quite clear that Leeds do not have much quality depth in their midfield options and bringing in someone like Ruben Pardo would solve plenty of problems for the manager.

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Pardo is a technically-gifted and tactically versatile central midfielder who is comfortable playing in No.10 and No.8 roles in the middle of the park. Calm and comfortable in possession with a good understanding of the game, the Spaniard not only has the ability to spread out the play with his distribution skills but he is equally adept at breaking the opposition’s lines with some delightful through balls. He likes to play the ball off the ground and never hesitates to have a crack on goal from range, while also cutting out attacks with crucial interceptions.

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The 26-year-old has Champions League and Europa League experience in his CV and his vision and creativity should make him a good fit for Bielsa’s free-flowing attractive football. That said, Leeds should go all out to sign the La Liga ace in the summer.

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Bournemouth

Bournemouth should complete a £25million double raid on Leeds for two supremely talented stars

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Bournemouth Opinion: Cherries should sign Phillips and Clarke from Leeds

According to a report from Football Insider, Bournemouth are keen on bringing Leeds United duo Kalvin Phillips and Jack Clarke to the south coast in the summer, as manager Eddie Howe plots a sensational £25 million double raid on the Whites.

The same report claims that Phillips would cost around £15 million while Clarke might come in the £10 million bracket after breaking into the first team picture at Elland Road this season.

Football Insider also understands that the Cherries are interested in the duo irrespective of whether Leeds get promoted to the Premier League or stay in the Championship.

While Phillips has been one of the mainstays of Marcelo Bielsa’s first team playing in that holding midfield role in front of the backline, Clarke has emerged as one of the breakout stars of the Championship with some eye-catching displays down the flanks, though he is still not a first-team regular for the league games.

The 18-year-old has accumulated 2 goals and 2 assists from just 4 starts in the league, which has put him on the radar of several top Premier League clubs.

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Bournemouth have fearlessly splashed the cash on promising young British talents in the transfer market and manager Eddie Howe has been able to extract the best out of them, with the likes of Lewis Cook, Chris Mepham, David Brooks, Jordon Ibe and Dominic Solanke being amongst those to have arrived at the south coast in recent times.

Their policy of building a strong core of young English players has worked wonders for them in the Premier League and Phillips and Clarke are exactly the sorts of players that Bournemouth need to look at.

To put things into perspective, Clarke and Phillips would be excellent additions to Bournemouth’s ranks as the Cherries do need to add depth and quality to their central midfield and attacking options.

Clarke is a player in the same mould as David Brooks and given that the Welshman has been linked with moves to bigger clubs in the summer, the 18-year-old might prove to be a useful squad player for the club next season, though it is unlikely that he would get too many first-team opportunities in the Premier League.

Clarke is a technically-gifted winger with decent pace, flair and quality on the ball, who can develop into a fine player in the days to come and push the likes of Ibe and Lys Mousset for a first-team role.

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Phillips, on the other hand, is another academy graduate at Elland Road who has taken his game to a new level under Bielsa this season and has played a key role in the club’s surge for promotion.

Primarily a defensive midfielder by trade, the 23-year-old has also showcased his versatility to play at centre-back, which might be one of the reasons behind Bournemouth’s interest in the player.

He excels with his tackling and interception skills in the middle of the park and uses his strength and game awareness to shield the backline. To add to that, the youngster is a good passer who likes to dictate the tempo of the game by moving the ball around and holding things together.

Phillips would be the ideal man to partner Jefferson Lerma in the midfield and he is more than capable of ousting ageing players like Dan Gosling and Andrew Surman. Also, his presence might just put a little bit more pressure on Lewis Cook to start delivering the goods more consistently.

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Bournemouth should continue their hunt for young British talents in the transfer market and the acquisition of Clarke and Phillips would certainly be a step in the right direction for the club, as they look to consolidate in the Premier League in the years to come.

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EFL Championship

Leeds must plot an ambitious swoop and beat PL giants to sign this solid £10m-rated defender – Agreed?

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Leeds United Opinion: Whites should beat PL sides to sign Bruno Viana

According to claims from talkSPORT, Premier League duo Watford and Wolves, as well as Championship promotion-hopefuls Leeds United are keeping close tabs on Braga defender Bruno Viana.

Viana, who started his career in the Brazilian top flight at Cruzeiro, was signed up permanently by the Portuguese club last season on the back of a successful loan spell from Olympiacos. The 24-year-old enjoyed a solid run in the Primeira Liga last season and he has continued his impressive form this term as well.

The former Olympiacos centre-back has established himself as an integral part of a Braga backline that has shipped only 28 goals in 29 Primeira Liga fixtures, a defensive record that has been bettered only by Porto and Benfica.

In fact, he has been one of the driving forces behind Braga’s surge to 4th in the league standings, as the Portuguese outfit sit just three points adrift of Sporting Lisbon in the top three.

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Viana has carved out an identity for himself in the Portuguese top flight and he is currently one of the most revered defenders in the Primeira Liga. Given that he is 24 and has been in top form, this summer might just be the right time for him to take the next big step in his career, as he enters his prime years as a centre-back.

To put things into perspective, Bruno Viana would be an ideal signing for Watford and Wolves but Leeds would bag a massive coup if they manage to fend off interest from the Premier League sides to land the Brazilian defensive maestro.

Leeds are currently flying high in the Championship and are right on track to end their 15-year-long absence from the Premier League.

Pontus Jansson and Liam Cooper have been as solid as a rock at the heart of Leeds’ backline this season. Kalvin Phillips has also filled in admirably at centre-back whenever Marcelo Bielsa has asked him to do so. Gaetano Berardi, who has had a season blighted by injuries, and Luke Ayling, who has played at right-back, are also capable of playing in central defence.

As things stand, the Whites are quite well-stocked in their options at the back and are certainly not in desperate need of defensive reinforcements. However, they would need to add more depth and quality to their squad and look for upgrades on their existing options in the summer if they are to survive in the Premier League.

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Viana is a powerful defender who is quick across the ground and also boasts of a decent aerial game.

Blessed with a sound positional sense and a good understanding of the game, the Brazilian not only has the ability to break up the play with tackles and interceptions but he has all the makings of a dynamic modern-day centre-back.

The 24-year-old has a pass success percentage of 86 in the Primeira Liga, which is clear evidence of his ball-playing abilities. Moreover, his average of 1 tackle, 1.6 interceptions, 4.9 long passes, 2.2 aerial duels and 4.1 clearances show that he is a solid defender with well-rounded attributes.

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TalkSport claims that Viana can cost up to £10 million but that should not be a huge concern for Leeds if they secure promotion to the Premier League. That said, the Whites should not hesitate to strike a deal for the in-form centre-back to enhance their chances of survival in the top flight next season.

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