Three Key Battles – Middlesbrough

West Ham United's Premier League trip to Middlesbrough is unlikely to be a goal-filled festival of football.

Boro have conceded just ten goals in as many home games, while West Ham have scored just 14 in ten away fixtures.

So, where will a tight game be won and lost? We examine three key areas where an edge one way or the other could decide the destiny of the three points.


Midfield Battle

Mark Noble will have to win his battle with one of the Premier League’s most under-rated players when he takes to the pitch at the Riverside Stadium.

Adam Forshaw came through the Academy ranks at Everton before making his senior breakthrough at Brentford, winning promotion and the League One Player of the Year award in 2013/14.

A hard-working, tough-tackling, accurate passing central midfield player, the 25-year-old has established himself as an automatic starter for Aitor Karanka this season.

In the absence of Cheikhou Kouyate, Noble will combine with Pedro Obiang and Manuel Lanzini in the centre of West Ham United’s midfield, where their duel with Forshaw and another Englishman, Adam Clayton, and Dutchman Marten de Roon, will go a long way to deciding the destiny of Saturday’s match.




Case for the defence

Calum Chambers swapped north London for the North East of England in search of regular Premier League football this season – and the Arsenal man’s loan move has seemingly paid off so far.

Still just 21, the Southampton Academy graduate has already been capped three times by England and could yet become a star for club and country.

This season, Chambers’ solid displays have included 122 clearances, while teammate Ben Gibson has made 133, making them the third most-prolific duo behind AFC Bournemouth’s Steve Cook and Simon Francis and Burnley’s Ben Mee and Michael Keane in the Premier League.

Opposite number Winston Reid has 164 clearances to his name, while both defenders are superb in the air, and the ability of both men to get the ball clear of their own penalty area will undoubtedly be called upon on Saturday afternoon.




Looking forwards

Andy Carroll has been the talk of the country since netting an unforgettable scissor kick in West Ham United’s 3-0 win over Crystal Palace at London Stadium last weekend.

The England centre forward was at his dominant best against the Eagles, having six of the Hammers’ 14 goal attempts and coming close to adding to his tally with another rasping first-half shot, while former teammate James Tomkins had to be at his brave best to keep out a second-half header.

In his own penalty area, the No9 was also head and shoulders above everyone else, making five clearances!

Alvaro Negredo is equally important to Middlesbrough at both ends of the pitch.

The Spaniard is Boro’s leading Premier League scorer with five, and the 31-year-old is a tireless worker who leads the line as a lone centre forward selflessly.

Strong in the air and adept at holding the ball up with his back to goal and bringing his teammates into play, West Ham’s defenders will need to be strong and diligent to prevent him adding to the five goals he scored against the Hammers in the 2013/14 League Cup semi-finals.