TONY PULIS admits he will be forced into a major defensive reshuffle when Middlesbrough travel to Blackburn Rovers on Sunday afternoon.

Boro are without Daniel Ayala, who is suspended following his dismissal in Wednesday’s 1-1 draw at Sheffield United, and Aden Flint, who was forced off in the first half at Bramall Lane after damaging his hamstrings.

Pulis also has injury doubts about another couple of members of his squad, and admits he is still to decide how to remodel his defence for Sunday’s game.

Ryan Shotton and George Friend could play as centre-halves if Pulis opts to stick with a back five, although that would mean Paddy McNair playing at right wing-back and either Rajiv van La Parra or Marcus Tavernier lining up on the left-hand side.

The Northern Echo:

Pulis said: “We’ll obviously miss Flinty and Dani, and we’ve also got another couple of injuries that we’ll not know about until the last minute. We are down a little bit.

“We’ve run out of defenders, I know that. We’re going to have to sit and look at it and decide which is the best way to go. We’ve got what we’ve got and we’ve got to get on with it.”

Flint is having a scan this morning that will ascertain the full extent of the damage that was inflicted on Wednesday, but the centre-half is set to miss at least a couple of weeks as could be sidelined for as long as a month.

Pulis said: “Flinty is having a scan this morning, so we’ll get a good view then of what it is. It’s a similar injury to the one he’s had before – whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, we’ll have to see.

“The doctor will have a look at the scan and we’ll take it from there, but he’s not going to be fit for a few weeks.”

Boro’s defensive problems have been exacerbated by the January departure of Danny Batth, with the centre-half’s loan deal having been prematurely curtailed in order to allow him to complete a permanent move from Wolves to Stoke City.

Pulis said: “We also lost Danny, and we’d have been a stronger squad if we’d been able to keep him. If Danny was here, we wouldn’t be talking about this situation because we would have had it covered.

“The fact is we lost him late in the window, and that’s the way it’s gone. It’s disappointing because he was a good lad as well as a good player. But those things happen and you have to get on with it.

“It’s like Sunday – there’s lots of teams that have a lot of injuries. They have to regroup and get on with it, and it’s our turn on Sunday and we have to show the right application and make sure the players that wear that shirt go out and give it everything.”