GEORGE FRIEND and Ryan Shotton will not be involved in Middlesbrough’s Championship game at Wigan Athletic tonight – but the experienced defensive duo should be available for Saturday’s crucial home game with basement boys Luton Town.

While their team-mates head to the DW Stadium ahead of their game with a Wigan side currently filling the third of the three relegation positions, Friend and Shotton will be lining up in a practice game at Rockliffe Park against a Celtic XI.

The game has been arranged to help the duo get some much-needed playing time after they have both suffered lengthy lay-offs that have blighted their season.

Shotton has not been involved since suffering an ankle injury in October’s goalless draw at Huddersfield, while Friend has only made two league appearances this season because of a combination of issues.

The pair are back in full training now though, with Friend having played for an hour of last Friday’s Under-23s win over Blackburn Rovers and Shotton having seen out the full 90 minutes in the same game.

Today’s practice match against Celtic will enable them top get more minutes under their belt, and should mean they return to senior contention for Saturday’s meeting with Luton.

“George will play 90 minutes, and will Ryan will play 60,” said Woodgate, whose side will move ten points clear of the drop zone if they win at Wigan’s DW Stadium this evening.

“Ryan has already played a full 90 the other day, so hopefully both players will be available for selection for the next game.”

Wigan v Middlesbrough Preview – Page 46