Why Adama Traore is key for Middlesbrough's playoff hopes

Adama Traore of Middlesbrough celebrates scoring his side's third goal during the Sky Bet Championship match between Queens Park Rangers and Middlesbrough at Loftus Road on January 20,...

This former Barcelona man was a revelation against Reading at the weekend but can he help Boro's promotion push?

Tony Pulis Manager of Middlesbrough looks on prior to the Sky Bet Championship match between Queens Park Rangers and Middlesbrough at Loftus Road on January 20, 2018 in London, England.

Following their 2-1 win over Reading at the weekend, Tony Pulis' Middlesbrough moved within just four points of a playoff spot.

In spite of the solid performances, it appears that Pulis himself doesn't believe that the side is capable of making it to the playoffs.

When asked by a BBC Tees reporter, the Welshman claimed that nobody gave his team "a hope in hell" of closing down the top six, let alone being promoted.

Whether or not this was some magic reverse psychology by Pulis, or he's got no confidence is unclear.

However, Boro fans shouldn't be worried, in fact, they should be feeling positive due to one player, Adama Traore.

The Spaniard hadn't exactly been the brightest spark for Boro during their season back in the Premier League.

  PositionTeamWon ContestGoal AssistGoalsTotal CrossTotal PassAppearancesMins Played
Adama Traoré MF Middlesbrough 117 3 3 53 217 19 1,009

However, the move down the Championship has done him some good and allowed him to show that he isn't just a pace-merchant.

Instead, he is comfortable in front of goal and can provide assists for the likes of Britt Assombalonga and Patrick Bamford.

He may have only played 19 times so far this campaign, but he absolutely tore Reading apart at the weekend, leaving their fullbacks not knowing if they were coming or going.

And it's this skill, pace and new found confidence in front of goal that could be a huge deciding factor in whether or not Boro does make it to the playoffs.

The last time they were they, back in 2015, they didn't quite have that creative spark to get past Norwich City in the play-off final.

Traore can change that though.

So far this season, he has created 17 chances and picked up three assists for himself; in fact, he created four chances in a single game against Sheffield Wednesday.

Though it was previously mentioned that the former Barcelona prospect is more than just pace - you shouldn't discount that attribute from being a huge part of his and Boro's success.

Adama Traore of Middlesbrough scores his side's third goal during the Sky Bet Championship match between Queens Park Rangers and Middlesbrough at Loftus Road on January 20, 2018 in London,...

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Nor should you forget his talents with the ball at his feet. So far this season in the Championship, Traore has completed an astonishing 116 take ons from an attempted 146.

A statistic which is actually higher than Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale and impressively not that far from both Neymar and Lionel Messi.

With Boro's next game against Cardiff next weekend, and with the chance of him coming up against former Boro full-back, Joe Bennett, Traore will be fancying his chances.

A win for Pulis' side would take them within a point of the playoffs and with clashes against relegation threatened Hull City, Sunderland and Birmingham in the coming weeks, all arrows point to up for Boro.

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