New manager Chris Wilder is already planning changes to his squad in January and that will mean players leaving as well as arriving.
Some of those earmarked to go could be playing tonight, but Wilder has promised to keep an open mind if they are able to change it.
“We’ve got position-specific (targets in mind) and they’ve got to fill what I believe those positions need,” he confirmed. “Out of respect I’m not going to start naming players or positions but we’re doing our work.
“We’re really excited about how it could look. I do believe it’s an attractive place to play, whether they’re young loan players or the other market as well. It’s really important we do get players in that fit the style.”
As for those already at the Riverside, he said: “I’m all eyes, I’m all ears looking at their attitude and what they bring to the football club. If I don’t have to make that change I’ll be delighted. If there’s somebody in the group who from a distance I thought might not fit but all of a sudden, yeah, that’s changed my mind (that’s great). It’s happened at previous clubs and it’ll happen here. It’s over to them.
“We have a staff meeting every day and we’ll talk about what the training session was like. We reflect every day.
“We’re always talking, we’re always assessing and we don’t have to make any knee-jerk reactions because of the six weeks we’ve got but I have a view because I’ve seen a lot of those games.”
Andraz Sporar went off at half-time in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Millwall and has had his ankle in a bucket of ice to try to ensure he is not one of those who misses tonight’s game.
“He’s doing his best to make himself available and there’s a couple of bumps and bruises,” said Wilder.
“Dael Fry’s not a million miles away. He’s possibly looking at the back end of the week to join in, which is big for us because he’s a big player. (Martin) Payero the same.
“There’s a couple that are touch and go that we’ll give as long as we possibly can.”
Last six games: Middlesbrough DDLLWW; Preston North End LLWWLL
Referee: A Woolmer (Northamptonshire).
Last time: Middlesbrough 2 Preston North End 0, March 16, 2021, Championship.