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West Brom’s game with Middlesbrough boils down to central midfield duel

This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more… 

West Brom venture north of the wall to face Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium, hoping they’ll be able to still reign supreme as Championship kings by the end of the evening.

The north-east has very much mirrored that of Westeros this season as many teams in this division have gone there and picked up a result, living up to the name of the ‘free folk,’ with Boro sitting 20th in the table currently.

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Jonathan Woodgate’s side sit just two points from the relegation zone and have won only the two games on their own patch this term.

Albion come into the game full of confidence, knowing they defeated Cardiff City 4-2 last time out.

But that doesn’t mean it won’t be difficult as Boro have individuals that could cause Slaven Bilic and his side a problem.

On the Chalkboard

Paddy McNair has all the qualities to knock West Brom off their iron throne as he interestingly offers up a threat in all aspects of the midfield game.

The former Manchester United man can play at centre-back, but he’s been deployed in a defensive midfield role under Woodgate, very much in the mould of his ex-teammate Scott McTominay.

McNair is averaging 1.1 tackles, 1.5 clearances, and 0.7 interceptions per game, which suggests he holds some authority in the centre of the park, but he also offers up danger at the other end of the pitch having bagged two goals this season – only bettered by Britt Assombalonga, per WhoScored.

No player in the side averages more shots per game than him either, which is bizarre for a defensive-minded player.

This means Romaine Sawyers will need to keep him in check on Saturday afternoon as the Northern Irishman has the ability to influence the match in all three-thirds of the field.

The Baggies academy graduate averages 1.6 tackles per game, which suggests he will be able to capitalise on McNair’s high dispossession rate.

Sawyers is the engine in Bilic’s midfield, recording the second-highest average passing accuracy in the league with 92.1% on top of providing 1.3 key passes per game.

Whoever comes out on top in this enthralling duel will undoubtedly help their side to a positive result.

For Albion’s sake, let’s hope the 27-year-old doesn’t follow the inexorable fate of the Night King.

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Ahmed Hegazi

Article title: West Brom’s game with Middlesbrough boils down to central midfield duel

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