Karanka provides Ayala and Espinosa injury updates

Boro's centre back woes could be eased as the two centre backs look set to return to  full time training, taking the total of fit first team centre halves in the squad to three.

Karanka provides Ayala and Espinosa injury updates
Daniel Ayala back training with the squad at Rockliffe Park | Photo: MFC.co.uk

Following Middlesbrough's 3-1 victory against Aston Villa, head coach Aitor Karanka revealed that new signing Bernardo Espinosa and Spaniard Dani Ayala are to return to first team training as they recover from their respective injuries.

Ayala, who struggled with injuries towards the end of the 2015/16 season,  sustained an ankle injury when Boro began their preseason preperations and has been working towards full fitness for more than a month now.

The injury to Espinosa, however, occured while playing for Sporting Gijon last year. Middlesbrough knew he was doubtful to start on the opening day when they signed him on June 15.

Espinosa putting work in at the gym | Photo: MFC.co,uk
Espinosa putting work in at the gym | Photo: MFC.co,uk

Injury updates provide Boro with a boost.

Prior to the Aston Villa game, Aitor Karanka had a selection headache in the central defence role. With Ben Gibson being the only fit first team centre back, Karanka had the choice between two players who had not started a game for Middlesbrough, in Adam Jackson and Bryn Morris.

He instead threw Dael Fry into his role alongside Gibson - which he did on occasion last season - having been knocked out of the Under 19s European Championships just 15 days before.

Fry also looked likely to start the first game the season for the second year in succession after making his competative Middlesbrough debut at Deepdale last August, following the failed transfer of Neven Subotic from Borussia Dortmund.

The veteran Serbian defender looked set to join the ranks on Teesside after agreeing personal terms on an £8 million move but Subotic failed his medical and will stay in Germany to have surgery on his rib.

This has put Fry in pole position to start along side fellow Boro academy graduate Gibson, but now Ayala and Gibson look set to resume a partnership which has only seen one defeat in 49 league games.

Boro still expect to bolster defensive ranks.

The recent injuries show how few options are at Karanka's disposal with regard to the centre back slots.

Last year's option of Tomas Kalas is no longer viable after his loan move to Fulham and Espinosa is seemingly taking his spot as back up to Ayala and Gibson.

Names such as Harry Maguire and Filip Helander have been circulating, with Paddy McNair of Manchester United being the latest potential defensive recruit linked to the Riverside.

Karanka may be looking to other options, however, as The Gazette revealed Hull's Maguire was not too high on the head coaches wish list.

Other defensive recruitments could be in the shape of a new left back after James Husband sustained a shoulder injury in July.