PREVIEW | Middlesbrough v Stoke City


The Premier League returns tomorrow, and as Middlesbrough fan Rob writes, it feels like they’ve missed two games of the season already.

Having been away since the 2008/09 season there is sure to be a great atmosphere inside the Riverside Stadium come 3pm for the visit of Stoke City.

Boro’s pre-season has seen some good performances and we’ve been very active in the transfer market, bringing in some key players such as Alvaro Negredo, Gaston Ramirez and Victor Valdes. The first four fixtures, against Stoke City, Sunderland, West Bromwich Albion and Crystal Palace provide an opportunity to get some points on the board early. That being said, Stoke are not a team to be taken lightly, as their ninth place finish in the Premier League last season shows, and Boro fans must temper expectations.

Aitor Karanka starting line-up continues to rumble with Bernard Espinosa and Daniel Ayala both out, it looks as though Antonio Barragan and Ben Gibson will both make their Premier League debuts.  Victor Valdes started in Boro’s last friendly and is likely to continue.

The central midfield area looks more certain, with the ever impressive Adam Clayton and Marten De Roon continuing their partnership as the holding midfielders.

Attacking midfield proves to be another challenge to Karanka, with Albert Adomah, Cristian Stuani, Gaston Ramirez, Stuart Downing and Viktor Fischer, all battling to make the starting eleven.

Finally, Jordan Rhodes and Alvaro Negredo have both impressed preseason and it will be a very close call to see who gets the nod.

As for Stoke, Jack Butland’s injury will be a big loss and it will be interesting to see what reception Shay Given gets on his return to the Riverside.

Although the Premier League is a step up in class, we were tight in defence last season and Stoke were not very prolific on the road. We have to hope our strikers can find some form early into the season, as this is one area we have struggled with recently.

Let the games begin!

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