Considering there were five competitive debutants in the Boro starting XI, plus some injuries in defence, Boro started life back in the Premier League at a fast pace. Antonio Barragan looked solid at the heart of the defence alongside Ben Gibson, and it was new striker, Alvaro Negredo, to get off the mark in the first match of the season.
Victor Valdes looked a bit suspect at times, however considering he hasn’t played much in the way of competitive football over the past two years and was caught out on Stoke’s goal. Hopefully the Spaniard will improve as the season continues and provide a steady, assured influence in goal.
Perhaps the pick of the performers against Stoke City was Gaston Ramirez. Many Boro fans felt it was important to get Ramirez back at The Riverside Stadium permanently after his performances last season. The Uruguayan linked up well with Negredo and clearly has that little something extra, which almost sealed maximum points for Boro.
The only downside to the match, was losing new signing Marten De Roon early on in the first half to a hamstring injury.
Boro travel to Sunderland, with David Moyes having been brought in over the summer. They opened their campaign against Manchester City, losing to a late own goal by Paddy McNair. Sunderland are a team who are still coming to terms with the departure of Sam Allardyce and Moyes has admitted it will take some time before they are at the level he wants them to be. Having said that, they looked decent against City and will be looking to take 3 points in their first home game of the season.
Sunderland’s main threat is Jermaine Defoe but having handled the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri, Marko Arnautovic, Mame Biram Diouf and Bojan, the Boro defence should be confident they can cope with whatever Sunderland throw at them.
There will be a fantastic atmosphere for the Tees-Wear Derby on Sunday, with the last meeting between the teams in 2012 when Boro won 1-0 in the League Cup.
It’s still early days in the Premier League season and it’s difficult to predict exactly how games are going to go. However, if Boro can defend well, as they have done for quite some time under Karanka, then there is a good base from which to build a winning team.
Keeping Sunderland’s chances down to a minimum and using the creativity of Ramirez and the power of Negredo up-front, especially as the match goes on, could see the first win of the season for Boro. The longer the game goes on at 0-0, the more frustrated the home fans will become and that will be Boro’s opportunity to strike.