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Three To Watch: Middlesbrough (H)

Who are the dangermen that Reading need to keep quiet?

Nottingham Forest v Middlesbrough - Sky Bet Championship
Will this man cause more misery for Reading?
Photo by Mark Robinson/Getty Images

Ben Gibson

The centre-back, who has been at Middlesbrough since the age of 10, is a key component of the defence. Having graduated from the ‘Boro academy, Gibson has gone from strength to strength, eventually being named vice-captain.

During Middlesbrough’s time in the Premier League last season, Gibson was one of the standout players in what turned out to be a dreadful campaign. Despite the team being relegated after just one season, his impressive performances won him plenty of admirers.

Amongst those admirers were the likes of West Brom, Southampton and even Manchester City, who were all rumoured to be interested in signing him. However, speculation about him leaving ‘Boro in January may now have been put to bed, with the 24 year-old signing a new five year deal earlier this week.

Middlesbrough may have had a poor season, considering where many people expected them to be, but you can still expect Gibson to give his all for his hometown club. As a result, whoever Jaap Stam decides to play up front could find themselves up against it once the game is underway.

Nottingham Forest v Middlesbrough - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Mark Robinson/Getty Images

Adama Traore

The Spaniard completed a transfer from Aston Villa in August 2016 and plays as a right winger for ‘Boro. The 21 year-old has fantastic speed and acceleration, allowing him to get past defenders with ease.

The former Barcelona man may have only made seven appearances so far this season, but his performances have earned him two “man of the match” awards from WhoScored, with Traore scoring an average rating of 7.16.

In terms of playing style, don’t expect the winger to put too many crosses into the box. The speedy winger has so far only averaged 0.7 crosses per game for this season, suggesting he’s more comfortable at cutting inside into dangerous areas. Nonetheless, he has two assists this season, demonstrating his creative talent.

It could therefore be another tough afternoon for Tyler Blackett, if he continues in the defence, as he struggled last time out against Sheffield United.

Britt Assombalonga

Britt Assombalonga should be a familiar name to Reading fans, having scored three goals in his last three appearances against the Royals.

Last season, Assombalonga scored 14 goals in 32 league appearances, which ultimately kept his former side Nottingham Forest from being relegated to League One. That’s particularly impressive considering that the 24 year-old only averaged 1.8 shots per game last season. Although he doesn’t shoot that much in comparison to other strikers, he’s very clinical when he gets chances.

This campaign, the former Peterborough man has scored six goals in 13 appearances for Middlesbrough. However, he’s achieved that from a higher shots per game rate: 2.4 - in contrast, Reading forward Jon Dadi Bodvarsson averages just 1.8 shots at goal each match. This suggests that, having made the step up from a struggling Forest side to a promotion-chasing Middlesbrough, Assombalonga is getting more chances, meaning that Reading’s defence will have to be extra careful.

Additionally, he has scored 53 goals in the last four seasons, which is particularly good considering he missed almost all of the 2014/15 season through injury.

It is therefore evident that Assombalonga is a brilliant striker at this level, due to his fantastic and consistent goal-scoring record in the Championship. As a result, all efforts from the Reading defence should be made at containing this talented centre-forward from being able to cause problems.