MIDDLESBROUGH headed into the international break just two points outside the top six after an excellent home victory over leaders Leicester City.

How have the recent weeks played out for Boro, what are the international break priorities, what does the coming month look like and what might the January transfer window bring?


Encouraging. Three wins from five in the Championship and progression in the Carabao Cup, setting up a glorious opportunity to reach the last four for the first time since winning the competition 20 seasons ago - and all without some key players.

Riley McGree, Marcus Forss and Darragh Lenihan all missed this latest chunk of games but others have stepped up in their absence, nobody more so than Sam Greenwood.

The manner of recent victories will also please Carrick. Boro were rewarded for their patience and sticking to their plan against Birmingham and superbly adapted to a different approach in Saturday's success over Leicester, which sent Carrick's side into the November break just two points shy of the top six. That looked extremely unlikely after the seven-game winless stretch at the start of the season.


Rest and recovery. Carrick gave his players a few days off and the aim is to freshen up ahead of the hectic Boro spell, with Boro facing 10 games before the end of the year, starting with the trip to Bristol City a week on Saturday.

In an ideal world, the break would give McGree, Forss and Lenihan the chance to step up their recovery but Carrick suggested last week that the trio are still some way short of being ready to return to training and it's not clear at this stage when they are likely to be back in contention. McGree's foot issue is something Boro are closely monitoring and managing day to day, which makes it hard for the club to know when the Australian international will be ready to return.


Five Boro players are away during the break. Seny Dieng is part of the Senegal squad that is kicking off qualifying for the 2026 World Cup with games against South Sudan and Togo, while Sammy Silvera was called up by Australia for their World Cup qualifiers against Bangladesh and Palestine.

Paddy McNair is in the Northern Ireland squad. They face Finland and Denmark. Rav van den Berg is away with Holland's Under-21s and Hayden Hackney with England's Under-21s.


Busy! The trip to Bristol City is the first of 11 games in 37 days, including a four-match spell which will tell us a lot about Boro's promotion credentials.

After the game at Ashton Gate, Boro then face fifth placed Preston before a visit to third placed Leeds United four days later. Ipswich, currently joint top, then head to the Riverside and the Tractor Boys are followed by Hull City, who are only outside the top six on goal difference.

Four of the five games that follow are against teams currently 17th and below in the table in Swansea, Rotherham, Huddersfield and Coventry, with a home clash against West Brom wedged in the middle of that run.

And then there's that Carabao Cup quarter final against Port Vale. Vale's cup run has understandably excited fans but their league form has been pretty wretched, with Andy Crosby's side having failed to win in their last nine outings, a run that has seen them fall to 17th, just three points above the drop zone. They've not yet faced any team from either of the top two tiers in the Carabao Cup, with a first ever quarter final appearance secured thanks to wins over Fleetwood, Crewe, Sutton and Mansfield.


Carrick has talked about his belief that Boro will "build and build" as the season goes on, which suggests the head coach hopes that his side will not only maintain their recent form but get better.

If that's the case then, like last year, Boro will go into the January window in a position of strength.

The priority as things stand will be up front. Josh Coburn is getting better by the week, is in the team on merit and went into the break on the back of two excellent displays, but this is the 20-year-old's first full season as a Championship regular, so Boro can't and won't expect too much from the striker. Emmanuel Latte Lath has enjoyed some promising cameos but he's clearly still adapting to life in the Championship. An injury to either would leave Boro looking very short.

Boro have long term targets they continue to monitor but the January transfer window is notoriously difficult to operate in and it might be that they instead look to the Premier League loan market if needs be, as they did with Cameron Archer and Aaron Ramsey last season. Boro wisely changed their approach in the summer to ensure they weren't as reliant on loan players but that doesn't mean it's a market they'll completely ignore.

There could also potentially be a decision to make on Paddy McNair if there was firm interest in the Northern Ireland international given his current contract is due to expire at the end of the season, but with Lenihan currently out and with van den Berg having to deputise at right-back due to the absence of Tommy Smith, Boro aren't particularly well stocked with central defenders and McNair remains a key figure.