Although 3 points would have been much appreciated against Stoke for the bookies, for more recommended betting websites by sportsbettingsitez.co.uk, the fact Boro are off the mark is a positive, especially with the absence of key defender, Daniel Ayala. The Spanish central defender, who was voted the PFA Fans’ player of the Season for the Championship in 2015/16, missed the game against Stoke and it was unclear, on just how long he was going to be out.
Ayala initially joined Middlesbrough on an emergency loan, marking his debut with a goal against Doncaster Rovers. He went on to sign a three and half year deal after his successful loan spell and last week penned a new four year contract that will keep him at the club until 2020.
Along with new addition, Bernardo Espinosa, Ayala played for Boro under-23’s on the 15th August, getting 45 minutes under his belt, in a 0-0 draw with Brighton. The 25-year-old was a key part of a central defensive partnership last season, with Ben Gibson, as Boro returned to the Premier League, with the best defensive record in the Championship.
Ayala performed well during the 45 minutes and was never really troubled defensively, by Brighton’s one-man attack. He showed some nice touches but was obviously lacking in match fitness and his running pace and passing, was still not at its best but these will return in the coming weeks. It’s highly unlikely Ayala will feature against Sunderland and a more realistic target, may be the match against West Bromwich Albion on the 28th August, if not, it will be after the international break.
So why is it so important for Boro to have Ayala and Gibson back together at the heart of the defence, even though Antonio Barragan performed well against Stoke?
One look at the statistics from last season, explains it very well. During 23 matches, when the two players were paired together in defence, Boro did not lose a single game. There were 14 wins and 9 draws in total, with no defeats and with stats like that, the inclusion of both players in the team, can only breathe huge confidence into the players around them. Even by looking back to the season before last, Boro only lost twice when the defensive duo played together and both games were away from home, in London. Therefore, over the last two seasons, Boro are undefeated at home, with an Ayala/Gibson central defensive partnership. Coincidentally, the worst run of form Boro suffered last season, was when one of the two players were missing from the team.
If there was ever a central defensive partnership, who were obviously vital to the success of their team, then it has to be Daniel Ayala and Ben Gibson. Let’s hope Ayala can return to the team soon because the boost it will give the team on the pitch, both mentally and in terms of playing ability, will be huge.