Football Previews

Middlesbrough vs Tottenham predicted XIs: Team news as Conte explains why wing-back system is only now ‘working’

By Ben Green

Published: 16:30, 28 February 2022

Middlesbrough will look to claim another Premier League scalp in the FA Cup when they welcome Tottenham to the Riverside Stadium in the Fifth Round on Tuesday (7.55pm kick-off, UK time).

Chris Wilder masterminded a penalty-shootout win over Manchester United in the round prior, so he will certainly not be overawed by the prospect of his charges tussling with another of the Premier League’s so-called ‘Big Six’. Antonio Conte meanwhile has firmly set his sights on securing Champions League football for Spurs next season, but he is a silverware magnet and will no doubt be relishing the chance to solidify his legacy at the club and end their protracted trophy drought.

Middlesbrough team news vs Tottenham: Old Trafford hero returns

Matt Crooks, scorer of Boro’s equalising goal at Old Trafford, has been suspended for the past two Championship games owing to yellow card accumulation, but he returns just in time to lock proverbial horns with Conte’s well-oiled, industrious midfield. Wilder, though, will be without the services of Marc Bola, who remains sidelined with a knee injury.

Predicted Middlesbrough XI vs Tottenham:

  • Lumley; Dijksteel, Fry, McNair; Jones, Crooks, Howson, Tavernier, Taylor; Watmore, Sporar. (3-5-2)

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Tottenham team news vs Middlesbrough: Four out for Conte

Conte confirmed in his pre-match press conference for this showdown that he has the same squad available to him as the weekend’s journey to Leeds, meaning the quartet of Rodrigo Bentancur, Lucas Moura, Oliver Skipp and Japhet Tanganga all sit this one out.

On a more positive note for the club, Conte was delighted to see the link-up play of his famed wing-back system bear fruit at Elland Road on Saturday, as Ryan Sessegnon and Matt Doherty combined to break the deadlock in the club’s 4-0 rout, suggesting his system is now starting to take shape.

Following the win in West Yorkshire, Conte said: “For the first time I have seen my mark on this system, to create with one wing-back and for the other wing-back to score. This is a mark of my system, my formation.

“This is the first time. It means the system is starting to work.”

Conte has been a devout advocated of a wing-back system for much of his career, famously guiding Inter Milan to Serie A title glory last season while adopting the set-up. The Italian has tried to assimilate those same principles on a Spurs squad that has been very much accustomed to more traditional full-backs over the years. And Saturday’s match against Leeds was very much Conte’s system in microcosm, with both wing-back pushing high up the pitch and influencing proceedings in the final third, as Sessegnon and Doherty linked in tandem to break the deadlock.

Predicted Tottenham XI vs Middlesbrough:

  • Lloris; Sanchez, Romero, Davies; Emerson, Winks, Hojbjerg, Reguilon; Kulusevski, Kane, Son. (3-4-3)

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