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Opposition Lowdown: Michael Carrick’s Middlesbrough

Reading face a long trip north to face high-flying Middlesbrough this weekend. Join us as we take a look at the opposition.

Middlesbrough v Brighton & Hove Albion: Emirates FA Cup Third Round Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images


Middlesbrough finished in seventh place in the Championship last season, five points away from the play-offs. They are having a strong season in the league this time round, despite a shaky start, currently sitting in third place in the league, following 17 wins, six draws and 11 losses.

Their home form has been stronger than their away form, with only two of their losses coming at the Riverside Stadium. Boro’s recent form has also been strong, having seen five wins in their last six games. Their five-game winning streak was ended by West Bromwich Albion last weekend.

The two sides faced each other last August with Reading claiming a 1-0 win at the Select Car Leasing Stadium, after a goal from Tyrese Fornah.

The boss

Michael Carrick: Former England and Manchester United midfielder Carrick took over as Boro boss in October last year, following the sacking of Chris Wilder. He arrived with the club in 21st place in the league and has guided them to third place in only four months.

Carrick played 464 games for Man United and joined their coaching staff following his retirement in 2018. He had two caretaker stints at United, following the sackings of Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and was unbeaten in his three matches in charge. Carrick left United in December 2021, following the arrival of Ralf Rangnick at Old Trafford.

Although early on in his managerial career, Carrick has had a strong start to life in the dugout and is building his own style - liking his side to build from the back, whilst also utilising wide players.


Boro brought in three players to supplement their squad in the January transfer window. They managed to bring in two talented youngsters on loan with striker Cameron Archer and midfielder Aaron Ramsey, both joining for the remainder of the season from Premier League Aston Villa. They also signed former Newcastle United trainee Dan Barlaser on a permanent deal from Rotherham United, with the midfielder signing for an undisclosed fee.

Defender Paddy McNair is a doubt for this weekend’s game after suffering a facial injury in Boro’s last game with West Brom. Fellow defender Matt Clarke will also miss out as he recovers from an back injury. Defender Anfernee Dijksteel and striker Rodrigo Muniz should both be available following injury layoffs.

Expected line-up

Steffen, Smith, Fry, Lenihan, Giles, Howson, Hackney, Forss, Akpom, McGree, Archer

Key Player

Chuba Akpom: Striker Akpom joined Middlesbrough in September 2020, signing from Greek side PAOK for a reported £2.75m fee. The London-born striker started his career at Arsenal, joining their youth team at the age of six. He made his Gunners debut in 2013 and went on to make 12 appearances for the club.

While at Arsenal he had a number of loan spells, representing Brentford, Coventry City, Nottingham Forest, Hull City, Brighton & Hove Albion and Belgian side Sint-Truidense. In 2018 he joined PAOK Salonika on a permanent deal and spent two years in Greece, scoring 18 goals.

He moved to Boro in 2020 and played a season in Teeside before rejoining PAOK on loan for the 2021/22 campaign. He has been a huge hit during his return to Middlesbrough this season and is the club’s top goalscorer, with 20 goals to his name so far. Akpom is an effective finisher who is also strong in the air.

One to watch

Cameron Archer: Striker Archer joined Middlesbrough on loan from Premier League Aston Villa in January this year, signing until the end of the season. He joined Villa at the age of eight and made his debut for the club in 2019.

He has gone on to make 13 appearances for the Villans, while also having loan spells at Solihull Moors, Preston North End and Middlesbrough. The 21-year-old has represented England at under-20 and under-21 level. Archer is pacey striker who likes to run at defenders.