Nottingham Forest v Middlesbrough: All eyes on Assombalonga

Middlesbrough's Britt Assombalonga: Quick return to Forest.
Middlesbrough's Britt Assombalonga: Quick return to Forest.
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AS £15m man Britt Assombalonga prepares to return to his old club, Middlesbrough manager Garry Monk admits the Championship is shaping up to be even more competitive than last season.

Back-to-back home wins over Sheffield United and Burton Albion, the latter seeing Assambalonga get off the mark with two goals, means Boro head to the City Ground in buoyant mood.

Both clubs have taken six points from the opening three fixtures. Considering Boro’s huge transfer outlay during the summer, this return represents pretty much par.

Forest, however, struggled last term and Monk takes such a bright start by today’s opponents as proof that the 2017-18 race for promotion is going to be keenly fought.

“Forest have had a good start to the season but that hasn’t surprised me,” said the Riverside chief.

“Going off the experience of last season, I think this time out the league is going to be even more competitive.”

Assombalonga’s return to the City Ground just a month after heading to Boro is likely to be today’s main focus, at least before kick-off.

Forest manager Mark Warburton admitted earlier this week he was not sure what reception the striker would receive from the home fans. Monk, however, has full faith in his big-money signing as the striker looks to add to his midweek double.

“It is always interesting when a player goes back to a former club,” he added. “Britt was fantastic for Forest, but he is focused on us now. He has moved on to a new challenge and he will be ready.

“Goals breed confidence, and for me the focus is on how we gel together on the pitch.

“I have been very pleased with the improvements we have made both defensively and offensively.”