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Scouting Report: Middlesbrough (A)

Can Jaap Stam ease the pressure on himself with a win at Middlebrough. Here’s the lowdown on the Boro

Queens Park Rangers v Middlesbrough - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Harry Murphy/Getty Images

The manager

Middlesbrough's current boss is Tony Pulis. The 60 year old has only been in charge at the club for a short time having replaced the sacked Gary Monk in December 2017.

Pulis has a vast amount of experience as a manager and is currently in his ninth job at the top of the coaching chain.

Managerial history

Pulis began his managerial career at Bournemouth in 1992.

Following the departure of Harry Rednapp, the former Stoke manager was promoted to the role of first-team manager by the Bournemouth board.

Middlesbrough v Brighton and Hove Albion - The Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

In his two seasons with the Cherries, Pulis would lead his side to two consecutive 17th place finishes.

He then moved on to his next managerial job which was at Gillingham being appointed the manager of the Gills in July 1995. During his time with the club Pulis would turn the club’s fortunes around.

He managed the club for four seasons, turning a team that had struggled at the very bottom of the Football League into a promotion winning one and laying the foundations down for the club’s eventual elevation to the First Division for the first time in their history. In the 1999 Second Division play-off final, the Gills were 2–0 up with less than two minutes left before two goals from Manchester City saw the match go to extra-time. Gillingham like Reading would suffer play-off final heartache as they would lose the match 3-1 on penalties.

Following the defeat, Pulis was controversially sacked by the club amidst claims of gross misconduct. He later brought a £400,000 court case against Gillingham chairman Paul Scally for unpaid bonuses, which was settled out of court in 2001 for £75,000.

His next job was at Bristol City in July 1999, but having spent a considerable amount of his playing career at arch rivals Bristol Rovers. Things never got going and following rumoured interest from Portsmouth the home fans chanted for him to leave. He eventually moved back to the South Coast where Milan Mandarić had recently taken over as chairman.

However, Pulis lasted only 10 months before being sacked.

He then moved to Stoke for what would be the first of two spells at the BET 365 Stadium in November 2002.

Pulis would lead the club to safety in the First Division by achieving a 1-0 win over Reading on the final day of the 2002/03 season.

Following a disagreement regarding player transfers, Pulis was sacked at the end of the 2004/05 season for “failing to exploit the foreign transfer market” by then chairman Gunnar Gíslason.

His next job was with Plymouth where he led the club to a respectable 14th place in his only season down at Home Park.

Pulis then returned to Stoke in July 2006 in which he would spend the next seven years of his managerial career.

During his second spell with the Potters, Pulis would lead the club to promotion to the Premier League in the 2007/08 season.

Just three years later, the Welshman would become the first manager to lead a Stoke side to the final of the FA Cup where his side would go on to lose 1-0 to Manchester City.

However, there was some consolation as Stoke qualified for the Europa League.

After discussions with club chairman Peter Coates, Pulis left the club at the end of the 2012/13 season.

Following Ian Holloway’s resignation at Crystal Palace in October 2013, Pulis returned to management and was hired as Holloway’s replacement by the Crystal Palace board. He successfully led the club to a remarkable 11th place in the Premier League when they were certain to go down. Pulis was rewarded by being named the Premier League manager of the year for the 2013/14 season.

However, after just one season in South London, Pulis dramatically left just a few days before the 2014/15 campaign by “mutual consent”, after he claimed he wasn't being backed in the transfer window.

Pulis’ last job at managing a Premier League club came at West Brom when he was appointed Baggies’ boss in January 2015.

In his first five months in charge at the Hawthorns, Pulis would lead his side to famous wins over Chelsea and Manchester United. West Brom would eventually finish 13th in the Premier League for the 2014/15 season.

This was then followed up a tremendous eighth place finish the following season.

But after a poor start to the 2017/18 season Pulis was sacked after winning four of his last 22 league games, a run stretching back to the previous campaign.

Pulis then moved to Middlesbrough.

Style of play/formation

In terms of his style of play, Pulis is know for playing a direct physical brand of football which involves getting the ball up to the big target man as soon as possible.

However, this brand of football is perceived by many pundits and fans as negative.

With regards to formations expect to see Pulis deploy either an old-fashioned 4-4-2 formation, a 4-1-4-1 formation or a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Top goal-scorer

Middleborough's current leading goal-scorer is Britt Assombalonga who has scored 12 goals in 30 appearances. Only the likes of Leon Clarke (15) and Matej Vydra (16) have scored more.

The former Nottingham Forest player has a history of scoring against the Royals having hit the back of the net five times in his five previous appearances against Reading and scored when Middlesbrough beat Jaap Stam’s men 2-0 at the Madejski Stadium in the last meeting between the two sides.

Meaning all efforts from the Reading defence should be made at keeping this talented striker quiet throughout the 90 minutes.

Club captain and current longest serving player

Boro’s current captain is Grant Leadbitter who has been at the club since joining from Ipswich on a free transfer in May 2012.

Having made over 225 appearances and scoring 32 goals since joining Middlesbrough, Leadbitter brings a wealth of experience.

By contrast, the current longest serving player for Middleborough is Stewart Downing.

Downing is in his second spell at the club having originally made 276 appearances at Middlesbrough between 2001 and 2009.

Following moves to Aston Villa, Liverpool and West Ham, Downing completed a sensational return to the Riverside Stadium in 2015 and has made a further 63 appearances.

Having scored a total of 55 career goals as well as winning the Carling (now Carabao) cup for his current club and winning 35 caps for England. The midfielder brings lots of experience to the Middleborough side.

Middlesbrough v Sunderland - The Emirates FA Cup Third Round Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

Key man to watch

The one player that Reading fans should keep an eye out the most is Adama Traore . Playing on the right side of midfield, the former Barcelona man is known for his pace and ability at being able to beat defenders like they aren't there. His 6.1 dribbles per game is by the best of anyone in the Middlesbrough squad suggesting that he likes to keep hold of the ball whilst running in behind.

Should Jaap Stam opt to deploy Tyler Blackett at left-back it could be a tough task for the former Manchester United man who had an awful game against Millwall last week.

With one goal and three assists, this is man that can cause many problems if given the time and space.

Likely line-up

Following Middlesbrough’s successful appeal over Rudy Gestade’s red card against Norwich, manager Tony Pulis could name the same side that lost 1-0 to the Canaries last weekend.

However, with Assombalonga’s impressive record against Reading, Pulis could give the striker a chance from the off, as well as potentially handing a debut to new signing Muhammed Besic who completed a loan move from Everton on deadline day and was an unused substitute in the defeat to Norwich.

Here’s how the Boro could line-up (4-2-3-1)

Darren Randolph (GK); Ryan Shotton Daniel Ayala, Ben Gibson, George Friend; Grant Leadbitter, Muhammed Besic; Adama Traore, Stewart Downing, Patrick Bamford; Britt Assombalonga.