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Middlesbrough have been one of the form teams in England since the arrival of Chris Wilder with six wins and two draws coming from his nine games in charge.
Boro were able to take a break from league matters last weekend with a FA Cup tie at Mansfield, and a much-changed side came through by a 3-2 scoreline.
While Wilder was quick to praise the efforts of the League Two outfit, he will have quietly been impressed by the character of his players with many of them having a point to prove ahead of a return to the Championship schedule.
More players continue to arrive at the club, too, with Arsenal loanee Folarin Balogun potentially being followed by Riley McGree, who has previously impressed for Birmingham City this season.
Providing that Boro’s backline stays fit, they have every chance of remaining in contention for promotion, but they head into this game still outside of the top six despites their six-game unbeaten run.
Wilder is expected to call upon much of the team which started the 2-1 victory at Blackpool on December 29.
However, Duncan Watmore is pushing for a recall over Onel Hernandez after scoring at Bloomfield Road, while Jonny Howson will hope to come back into the centre of midfield.
New signings Aaron Connolly and Balogun are likely to be named on the substitutes’ bench at best.
With Scott Dann suffering a calf injury, Paunovic must decide how to reshuffle his team with his decisions not paying off against Fulham.
Youngster Michael Stickland could be handed his first Championship start as a direct replacement, a move which will help prevent Andy Rinomhota being given too many minutes after his comeback from injury.
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George Puscas is an alternative in the final third, but Paunovic may feel that he cannot make many changes to his team.
Middlesbrough possible starting lineup:
Lumley’ Bamba, Dijksteel, Fry; Jones, Crooks, McNair, Tavernier, Peltier; Watmore, Sporar
Reading possible starting lineup:
Southwood; Tetek, Holmes, Stickland, Bristow; Drinkwater, Laurent; Hoilett, Swift, Dele-Bashiru; Carroll