Find out everything you need to know about Middlesbrough's upcoming opponents
Middlesbrough go into this game with a stride in their step after two great performances brought them 6 points against Huddersfield Town and Reading and they will want to bring this form into their upcoming fixture against Bristol City in order to cultivate a winning mentality that will be needed to challenge for the playoffs.
On the other hand, Bristol City come into the game in quite the opposite circumstance having struggled for form over recent weeks resulting in the side dropping to 15th and so their season is steadily falling into obscurity as they sit someway behind the playoff chasing pack and it is unlikely that they will be pulled into a relegation fight considering where they are at this point in the season. The side now lacks an objective and so their current form may continue as the side struggles to find the motivation needed to push them out of this poor run of form. This situation will be considered as far from satisfactory by the Bristol City supporters who have seen their side compete at the top of the table in recent seasons. It does appear to be a curious situation of the Robins as the majority of the players that had made them so competitive are still at the club.
Bristol City Season so far:
The Ashton Gate based side currently sit in 15th place and while they have dropped into the bottom half of the league it seems unlikely that the side will be drawn into a late relegation battle as they sit on the cusp of the 40 points mark that is often considered to be safety. Yet the side is joint second in most games lost so far this season with 16, over half of the sides games to date. This is clearly the sign of a struggling side but they have also managed to find 3 points at an impressive rate too as they have had 12 wins to date only one less than Middlesbrough.
Instead their biggest issue is finding a more positive balance between winning and losing as the side has drawn just 3 games indicating that they find it hard to turn around losing situations. The Robins have scored in 4 of their 16 loses so far this season which indicates that the side struggles to turn around losing situations with as many as 7 of these loses coming with a 1-0 scoreline.
Score 4 losing games only.
There seasons anomalies don’t stop their though as Bristol City have the side currently has the 3rd worst goal difference in the league which would indicate that they are currently sitting in a position beyond their means however this statistic is unrepresentative of Bristol City’s season due to a recent 6-0 drumming to Watford, a more stable -8 would represent their season better.
So if Middlesbrough can get the first goal and then put in a strong defensive performance then they have a good chance of succeeding.
It will come as no surprise at this point that Bristol City enter the upcoming match having not won in their last 5, in fact the side has been on a run of consecutive losses since 20th January, putting them on a 7 game losing streak (including the FA Cup).
During this pointless run in the League, Bristol City’s attack has dried up with the side failing to score in all but one of these losses, when Vyner and Wells scored against Brentford, and so they will be aiming to fix the goal drought as soon as possible with former Middlesbrough target Diédhiou posing as the player with the best chance of breaking this duct.
Yet they have also had defensive issues over this period as the side have conceded 3.4 goals per game on average over this period and even excluding the drumming against Watford the side still concedes 2 goals on average and securing defence has to come as a priority before the side looks towards the strikers as it is unlikely that their forward options will be able to bridge the 2 goal gap even when in their best form.
Top Goalscorer: Famara Diédhiou, Nahki Wells (6)
Most Assists: Chris Martin (5)
Most Yellow Cards: Jack Hunt, Zak Vymer (4)
Most Red Cards: Famara Diédhiou (1)
One to Watch: Tomas Kalas
A defender who will be a familiar face for many Boro fans Tomas Kalas was a near constant presence at the heart of Middlesbrough’s defence during the 2015/2016 season making 43 appearances during his loan stint from Chelsea. He put in some very impressive displays during his stay on Teesside and quickly became a fan favourite and 22 capped Czech International has been linked with a return to the club on multiple occasions since. Unfortunately his next return to the Riverside will be in Bristol City colours.
Starting his career in at his hometown side Sigma Olomouc in Cezch Republic. He made his way through the youth academy of the side based in the historic and formerly ecclesiastical city of Olomouc until he caught the eye of Chelsea FC. A £5.4m fee was agreed and he made his move to London. However, like many of the young players that Chelsea signed over this period, he was given very little opportunity to prove his worth over the 9 years that he spent at the club making just 4 appearances, only one of which came in the league. Instead he was loaned out across European football in order to increase his transfer value in order to sell him on for a profit, a method that Chelsea used to make money, with great success. He started his flurry of loans with a return to his hometown side in 2010-2011 where he made 4 appearances followed by moves to: Vitesse (2011-2013), F.C. Köln (2014-2015), Middlesbrough (2015-2016), Fulham (2016-2018), Bristol City (2018-2019). Bristol City were impressed during his loan stint at the club and decided to sign him on a more permanent basis paying £8.1m for the privilege. Tomas Kalas presents the personification of Chelseas success through their loan system too as after a limited financial outlay the player was sold on for £3m profit.
Middlesbrough fans won’t need any reminding about the talent that Kalas possesses. While he lets the other defenders directly intervene with attackers as he makes just 0.8 tackles per game on average but he manages a good 2 interceptions per game and the most clearances on average per game with 4.5 meaning that the player does well in positioning and dealing with balls into the box. Meanwhile he will get involved in the teams distribution and ball rotation as he makes an average 36.8 passes per game, the 5th highest in the side with 77% of his passes finding their intended target so helping to maintain possession.
Tomas Kalas poses as a serious presence at the heart of Bristol City’s defence that Middlesbrough will have to overcome.
Future Prospect: Han-Noah Massengo
Most Championship fans will be aware of this 19 year old midfielder as he burst onto the Championship scene last season with some impressive performances. Born and raised in Villepinte, France the midfielder has already spent his career at a number of clubs due to a number of moves during his youth career. He started his development at Villepinte FC (2007-2009) before moving to Sevran FC (2010-2011) followed by Espérance Aulneysienne (2011-2014), Blanc-Mesnil SF (2014-2016) and Monaco (2016-2019).
The last year of his time at Monaco saw him break into the French giants B team, where he made 23 appearances scoring 2 goals and even had the great privilege of making an appearance in the Champions League before his move to the Championship.
Bristol City forked out £7.2m to bring the former French Under-18 International to Ashton Gate and while the player will be used to a change in club, having spent time at 5 youth academies, his move to Bristol City would still present a serious change that he would need to adapt to: a different culture, style of play and the nature of the Championship but he has done pretty well in adjusting to these changes since he arrived.
During his first season at the club, Massengo made 25 league appearances equalling 1,917 minutes or 21.3 whole 90 minute appearances but he has fallen out of favour with manager Dean Holden this season, making just 13 appearances, of which he only played through to the end on three occasions. Yet he has seen more involvement in recent weeks as the manager attempted to find a formula to revive his sides form before he was sacked and replaced by Nigel Pearson. Yet despite his lack of involvement, the fans still appreciate his ability with many clamouring to social media in order to praise the youngster for his performance during the sides 3-2 defeat against Brentford.
The player revealed in an interview on Bristol City’s YouTube channel that his idol growing up was Ronaldinho and the players inspiration is clearly seen in his gameplay too as he sprinkles the flair and trickery that made the Brazilian so iconic into his own game. Playing in a deeper role to his idol he has a very good tackling ability that allows him to pinch the ball from an opposing player with a sense of confident ease and his passing range is also very impressive allowing him to pick out teammates over a considerable distance and those nearby as be has a 80% pass success rate. Ultimately, he offers something different to anyone currently playing in the championship and playing him as a roaming playmaker that is involved in defending and starting attacking moves could help to bring the side out of this sticky situation. He is far from perfect, however, as he has consistency issues and his failure to contribute an assist or goal to the Robins case will be a growing concern for a club that invested a large sum of money in the player.
Manager: Nigel Pearson
The biggest concern for Middlesbrough will be the new Bristol City manager, the club sacked Dean Holden following the sides poor run of form and turned to former Middlesbrough player Nigel Pearson to take the helm just a day before his first match in charge. There is no secret about the psychology of a managerial change and the Englishman may well plan to bring in a number of players from the cold which may include Massengo who can be very dangerous on his day.
Nigel Pearson was born in Nottingham and played signed his first professional contract for Shrewsbury Town (1981-1987) and during his time at the Shrews he made 153 appearances. He then moved to Sheffield Wednesday for £270,000 (1987-1994) and he played 180 games for the side during his 7 year stint with the Owls. Finally he moved to Middlesbrough who agreed a fee of £810,000 for a player who would go on to make 116 appearances. The centre back had a long career over 17 years and graced the field 449 times at the heart of defence and he managed to find the net 24 times before he hung up his boots.
The 57 year old jumped straight into management to take over Carlisle United for the 1998-1999 season yet he didn’t return to the top job until 2006 when he started a flurry of caretaker roles including West Bromwich Albion (2006), England U-21’s (2007), Newcastle United (2007,2008) before he found his feet at Leicester City (2008-2010, 2011-2015) a club that would go on to rehire him after a year with Hull City (2010-2011). He then spent stints at: Derby County (2016), OH Leuven (2017-2019), Watford (2019-2020) and his new club Bristol City.
There is no doubt that the former Middlesbrough centre back is a talented manager having previously led Leicester to the Premier League and a large group of Middlesbrough fans want him to take over the top job at sometime in the future. This means that the game may pose to be a more difficult clash than first anticipated.
Han-Noah Massengo (highlights):