Middlesbrough boss Neil Warnock will have to contend with the after-effects of a coronavirus outbreak as he prepares for Saturday’s Sky Bet Championship clash with Birmingham.
The club’s Rockliffe Park training headquarters was effectively closed on Monday last week after a series of positive tests among players and staff, and Warnock made seven changes for last weekend’s 2-1 FA Cup third-round defeat at Brentford with youngsters Hayden Hackney, Sam Folarin, Rumarn Burrell and Isaiah Jones all playing a part.
Rockliffe re-opened on Wednesday this week, but Warnock’s options are likely to be limited again by Covid-19 protocols.
Jonny Howson has returned to training after a hamstring injury and will be assessed, but fellow midfielder Marcus Browne is out as Boro await a second opinion on the extent of the damage he suffered when he dislocated a kneecap against the Bees, joining forward Ashley Fletcher (hamstring) and defender Grant Hall (thigh) on the sidelines.
Former Boro manager Aitor Karanka will not be the only familiar face when the City bus arrives at the Riverside Stadium.
Defender George Friend, midfielder Adam Clayton and striker Lukas Jutkiewicz all had spells on Teesside before heading for St Andrews, although Clayton and Jutkiewicz were used only as substitutes in last weekend’s 3-0 cup defeat at Manchester City.
Karanka made four changes for the trip to the Etihad Stadium, where Marc Roberts came off the bench following his recovery from an ankle injury, while fellow defender Kristian Pedersen (knee) was an unused substitute.
Zach Jeacock (ankle), Caolan Boyd-Munce (thigh), Alen Halilovic and Gary Gardner (both hamstring) continue to work their way back towards fitness.