The 72

Middlesbrough Head Coach Jonathan Woodgate has revealed to The Hartlepool Mail that Dani Ayala will ‘probably’ miss the next five Championship games.

Middlesbrough have been unlucky with injuries so far this season, and are suffering a shortage in defence. Jonny Howson and Paddy McNair have had to fill in at the back in recent weeks following injuries to Ryan Shotton, Dani Ayala, Anfernee Dijksteel and George Friend.

Ayala was originally thought to be only out for two weeks, however, speaking after Boro’s 2-1 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup third round, Woodgate said it’s worse than first thought.

“I’d say three or four weeks, probably four weeks,” he said.

This means Ayala would miss Middlesbrough’s next five league games, these include a trip to Fulham, back-to-back home games against Birmingham City and Blackburn Rovers, before travelling to Brentford and Wigan Athletic in February.

With Ayala missing for the next month, Woodgate could look to the transfer market for reinforcements in defence. One player they have identified as a potential target is Aston Villa centre-back, James Chester.

The Wales international may be surplus to requirements at Villa Park this season, with Tyrone Mings, Kortney Hause and Ezri Konsa ahead of him in the pecking order.

Dael Fry is currently the only fit centre-half at Middlesbrough, and youngster Nathan Wood has had to be brought in from the youth set up to warm the bench. His chance in the first team could come sooner rather than later with Ayala sidelined until the end of next month.

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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