David Wheater misses out through suspension after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season last weekend and is replaced by Seb Hines.
Leroy Lita also misses out after failing to recover from a stomach bug, leaving Marvin Emnes and Scott McDonald to lead the line for Boro.
Justin Hoyte also comes in at right-back, replacing Tony McMahon, while Kevin Thomson comes back in too.
Middlesbrough: Steele; Hoyte, Bates, Hines, Bennett; Arca, Thomson, O'Neil, Bailey; McDonald, Emnes.
Subs: Coyne (gk), McMahon, Tavares, Williams, Kink, Robson, Boyd.
Cardiff: Marshall; McNaughton, Hudson, Gyepes, Naylor; Whittingham, Burke, Drinkwater, Olofinjara; Keogh, Bellamy.
Subs: Blake, Rae, Matthews, McPhail, Santiago, Riggott, Chopra.