Pogatetz boost for Boro

Defender set to hand Southgate a lift

Pogatetz: Ready to return

Loading Market ...

Football Betting

Up To £30 Free Matched Bet

Middlesbrough are set to be boosted by the return to fitness of Emanuel Pogatetz, who has been missing all season following knee surgery in the summer.

The Austrian international, 24, had an operation on both his knees in pre-season but he is now nearing a return to first-team duty.

Pogatetz played an hour of a reserve team game on Tuesday and is now hoping he will soon be in a position to push for a starting role.

"I think I should be back at my best after the next international break [in early November].

"If the manager feels he needs me before that then of course I will play, but it's hard when you know you are only 80 or 90 per cent fit.

"I need to test myself and take part in more competitive training to get back my self-belief. I want to get back to my best physically and mentally."

It had been feared that Pogatetz could have been sidelined until the New Year, but he is now looking forward to returning.

"It's not nice watching when you would rather be playing," he said.

"It's hard to watch, especially when we are not doing so well. I get very nervous - I know how the fans must feel now.

"To be honest, when I first got injured, I appreciated the opportunity of going back to Austria for a while because it is hard to be around the training ground when you know you are miles away from playing.

"I knew it was a long-term injury, so it was good to get away from football for a while."