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Middlesbrough Vs Stoke City Premier League Preview

Friday 12th August 2016
Middlesbrough kick off their Premier League return with an eagerly anticipated home fixture against Stoke City at the Riverside Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Despite this being the clubs first top-flight outing in seven years is being greeted with a real air of optimism on Teesside with the combination of a strong summer of transfer activity and an encouraging preseason campaign to date in which Middlesbrough's strong organisation and defensive record appears to have only been strengthened by the acquisitions brought in to provide valuable experience to an already strong dressing room.

Middlesbrough will be looking to hit the ground running in the Premier League, and with their first four games being some of the gentler fixtures that they could look for (against Stoke, Sunderland, West Brom and Crystal Palace) it will be vital to get some points against their league rivals on the board ahead of what will no doubt be a long and difficult season.

The Teessiders had an excellent preseason campaign picking up wins against the likes of Real Betis and Aston Villa while picking up hard fought draws against Italian side Udinese and La Liga side Real Sociedad. Aitor Karanka's side looked strong and organised throughout and are very much working to the same template as last season by being both defensively organised and quick on the counter which is seen as the system needed to ensure they pick up the required number of points to achieve their main objective: avoiding relegation.

Stoke City will no doubt provide a tough test after for Middlesbrough after a strong ninth place finish last season, and with the addition of Joe Allen and the huge boost of having Marco Arnautovic sign a new long term contract, Mark Hughes' men will be confident of a strong start to the season despite an indifferent preseason campaign in which they lost 3-0 to Burton Albion, 1-0 against Hamburg and drew 1-1 against Championship side Preston. However they will be anxious to pick up a positive result against Middlesbrough with tricky fixtures against Man City, Everton and Tottenham to follow.

Team News

Middlesbrough go into the match against Stoke without new signing Bernardo Espinosa and defensive mainstay Daniel Ayala through injury with debutant Antonio Barragan expected to deputise in central defence alongside Ben Gibson. Debuts are also expected to be handed to new signings Victor Valdes, Marten De Roon, Viktor Fischer and Alvardo Negredo- however whether the latter will dislodge in form Jordan Rhodes from the starting line-up remains to be seen.

Stoke City are expected to have new signings Joe Allen and Egyptian winger Ramadan Sobhi available on Saturday alongside the likes of Marko Arnautovic, Giannelli Imbula and Xherdan Shaqiri who are all expected to have another huge impact on Stoke City's fortunes this season.

Predicted Middlesbrough starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Victor Valdes, Nsue, Barragan, Gibson, Friend, Clayton, De Roon, Fischer, Ramirez, Downing, Rhodes.

Predicted Stoke City starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Butland, Johnson, Shawcross, Wollscheid, Pieters, Allen, Imbula, Shaqiri, Bojan, Diouf
Phil Spencer
Sports Reporter covering all levels of the Footballing Pyramid. Member of the Press Association and avid Middlesbrough fan. Twitter handle is PhilSpenc23

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