GEORGE FRIEND has returned to the Middlesbrough starting line-up for this lunch-time’s Tees-Wear derby with Sunderland, who are looking to deliver after last week’s sacking of manager Simon Grayson.

Grayson’s exit has paved the way for Robbie Stockdale and Billy McKinlay to lead the Black Cats at the Riverside Stadium and the caretakers have sprung surprises.

Sunderland have named four centre-midfielders in their starting line-up so it will be interesting to see how they line up, with Lee Cattermole, Darron Gibson, Didier Ndong and Paddy McNair all playing.

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McNair is making his first Championship game since November 19 after recovering from injury, and having emerged from the bench in midweek to score against Bolton to stop Sunderland from falling to the bottom of the league. Billy Jones has returned to the defence.

Middlesbrough will climb to fifth if they can claim a fourth straight win over their North-East neighbours and the only change to the side which won at Hull sees Friend replace Fabio at left-back.

Fabio was forced off with illness at Hull and missed a couple of training sessions, but he has recovered enough to take his place on the bench. It is Friend's first league start since August.

MIDDLESBROUGH: Randolph; Christie, Ayala, Gibson, Friend; Downing, Howson, Leadbitter, Tavernier; Braithwaite; Assombalonga. Subs: Konstantopoulos (gk), Fabio, Shotton, Forshaw, Johnson, Traore, Fletcher.

SUNDERLAND: Ruiter; Jones, O’Shea, Wilson, Oviedo; Cattermole, Gibson; Ndong, McNair, McGeady; Grabban. Subs: Steele (gk), Williams, Rodwell, McManaman, Matthews, Honeyman, Gooch.