MIDDLESBROUGH will be without Lukas Engel for Tuesday night's visit of Preston North End, but it's not yet clear how long the defender will be sidelined as Michael Carrick awaits further news on the extent of the full-back's ankle injury.

In Engel's absence, Alex Bangura looks set to start just his second Championship game for Boro since his summer arrival, with Carrick praising the left-back for the manner in which he's trained over recent weeks and backing the 24-year-old to take his chance in the team.

Josh Coburn, who dropped to the bench for Saturday's defeat at Bristol City after nursing a couple of niggles, has suffered no further setbacks and is pushing for a recall for the visit of North End.


But the game obviously comes too soon for Riley McGree and Marcus Forss, who remain out of action. McGree is making good progress as he battles a problematic foot issue but Carrick is reluctant to put a timescale on his return at this stage. Forss, says Carrick, "is longer away".

With Boro also without Tommy Smith and Darragh Lenihan, who are unlikely to play again this season, Carrick has had to deal with a number of setbacks in recent weeks, but a blow for one player is an opportunity for another, with Bangura set to make his first league start since his debut at Blackburn in September after Engel was forced off at Ashton Gate.

"We're still waiting really," said Carrick on Engel.

"He won't be ready for Preston. How long at this stage we don't know. Hopefully it's a matter of days but we'll have to wait and see. It's still quite early and fresh and we're still assessing it. We seem to be picking up a few (injuries). It was a really unfortunate one and a nasty twist when you watch it back. Hopefully it wasn't too bad and we have him back soon.

"There are two sides to it. There's the disappointment of losing players but the flip side is that is why we have the squad and opportunities. That's not forgetting about the injured players but we have a team to pick and someone else will play. We'll work to get the boys back as quickly as we can.

"You never really want to have the issue of not having people fit but it's natural, and there's the positive because there are opportunities for others. Like Alex, for instance. He came to the club, unfortunately got injured, trained so so well and supported the boys incredibly.

"I think he's showed why he was captain previously because he has that attitude and character. He's been patient, waited for his time and he knew he'd have opportunities like everybody else. It's never nice to miss players but it always throws up another chance for someone else to play well."

Carrick must decide whether to stick with Emmanuel Latte Lath up-top on Tuesday night or recall Coburn after he was rested at Bristol City and came off the bench late on.

"Josh came through OK," said Boro's head coach.

"He's just had a period over a number of weeks where he missed a bit going into Leicester because he had a bad toe, then in the international break he had a bit of stiffness in and around his groin. He's had quite a big load Josh and he's a young boy, he's a big strong lad but we have to manage him as well. Manu was raring to go but Josh has come through."


Boro continue to closely monitor McGree and Forss, who have both been missing since October.

Carrick said: "They're the same as I keep saying. Marcus is longer away, he's further off. Riley is hopefully a matter of weeks really, a week or two really by the time he's back training but he's missed a lot so we'll be patient.

"It's a frustrating one with Riley. It's a niggly one and an annoying one and it's hard to put a timeframe on. At the minute he's positive but I don't want to get ahead of it and predict the time, because he could could then be seen as having a setback when actually it's not, it's just the foot problem that he has is one of them problems.

"That's not me trying to hide anything, it just is what it is. We're patient with it. We're trying to get the boys back as quickly as we can but it's a long season and we need them back right. That's why we have the squad."