Middlesbrough could be without a whole host of players for the visit of Reading this weekend at The Riverside Stadium.

Long-term absentee George Friend had minor surgery this week according to Middlesbrough’s official website, and is expected to return to training very soon.

He has been out of action for the most part since last season, although he did turn out for the first team once this Championship campaign, playing 83 minutes against Blackburn before the injury problem arose again.

His replacement Hayden Coulson started the season as first choice left-back in Friend’s absence, but he has not played since the second game of the season due to injury. The article states the youngster is making good progress.

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Another couple of defensive options may also be missing for the fixture against Reading this weekend, with Jonny Howson, used as a right-back so far this season, possibly recovering from minor surgery after being diagnosed with a hernia.

Dani Ayala could also miss out. He missed the trip to Bristol City at the end of August, with Dael Fry returning to the fold in his place.

The defensive options at manager Jonathan Woodgate’s disposal certainly look light, with the back four likely to be Anfernee Dijksteel, Dael Fry, Ryan Shotton and Marc Bola. 17-year old Nathan Wood, who has been linked with Burnley, Arsenal and Tottenham this week will be expected to be on the bench.

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Another area of the pitch which seems light on numbers is up front with Rudy Gestede also out for up to 10 days after suffering a thigh injury whilst on international duty with the Benin national side. This leaves Britt Assombalonga, Ashley Fletcher and teenager Stephen Walker vying for a starting berth.

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Lifelong Boro fan - from the highs of watching Juninho and the Carling Cup victory, to the lows of Gordon Strachan and Lee Dong Gook