Who stood out for Middlesbrough in pre-season?

With the Premier League now less than a week away, does Boro head coach Karanka have any selection headaches and has anyone over or under performed in the 8 friendlies?

Who stood out for Middlesbrough in pre-season?
Aitor Karanka takes charge of his first Premier League pre-season | Photo: Getty

Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka started his third pre-season with the Teeside outfit having secured promotion to the Premier League.

The former Real Madrid assistant coach made it clear that he wanted to consolidate Middlesbrough's place in the top tier, with Boro chairman Steve Gibson backing him - telling The Gazette 'We've got to have a go.'

The hierarchy at the Riverside certainly kept to their word, bringing in big name players such as Alvaro Negredo and Victor Valdes and for this both Gibson and Karanka must be commended.

But, as the Middlesbrough head coach said many times during his tenure on Teesside, it is a team game and the whole squad needs to be on top form.

Karanka has actively encouraged competition amongst his players, brining in more quality to ensure he gets the best out of who is at the club.

This can be seen in his signings of Marten de Roon who becomes the 5th player in the Boro set up more than capable of playing as a holding midfielder. The arrivals of Brad Guzan and Victor Valdes has also seen a great rise in competition for a place between the sticks at Middlesbrough.

Which players in the Boro squad have risen to the occasion and the competition for places in pre-season?

Adam Forshaw

Forshaw celebrates scoring the winner against Reading | Photo: Richard Lee/BPI/Rex/Shutterstock
Forshaw celebrates scoring the winner against Reading | Photo: Richard Lee/BPI/Rex/Shutterstock

The former Wigan and Brentford central midfielder has had his second impressive pre-season in succession as he looks to nail down a starting spot in the absense of club captain Grant Leadbitter.

After arriving for £2 million in the January of 2015, Forshaw has played second fiddle to Karanka's first choice midfield partnership of Leadbitter and Middlesbrough Supporters South's Player of the Year, Adam Clayton.

The aforementioned arrival of Dutchman Marten de Roon looked to have pushed Forshaw down the pecking order, but fine displays against Udinese and Real Sociedad in Boro's most recent friendlies may have altered the thinking of the Boro head coach, who may have previously had Forshaw on the bench for the Premier League opener

Likeliness to start against Stoke? 7/10 - Karanka may want to start his big money signing, but recent performances from Forshaw have given him a great chance to be in the starting XI.

Jordan Rhodes

It's been goals galore from Rhodes in pre-season | Photo: skysports.com
It's been goals galore from Rhodes in pre-season | Photo: skysports.com

Six months ago, following his £9 million move from Blackburn Rovers, Boro fans would have said that the Scot was a nailed on starter - should their team be promoted.

But Middlesbrough's aqusition of Premier League winning striker Alvaro Negredo has meant that Rhodes is no longer the most highly rated striker at the club.

It has to be said, however, that - like Forshaw - Rhodes has thrived under the conditions and has given Aitor Karanka his biggest selection headache.

After finishing the campaign with 5 goals in Middlesbrough's last 8 games of the 2015/16 season, Rhodes' fine form has continued into the preparations for his first Premier League season, having scored another 5 goals in Middlesbrough's 8 preseason matches.

Likeliness to start against Stoke? 6/10 - Jordan Rhodes could not have done more to try and cement a starting position when Boro take to the field on August 13th. The arrival of Alvaro Negredo on Teesside is a transfer of such a size that it is almost unthinkable that 'The Beast' will not start against the Potters, but when Rhodes gets his chance he would be wise to grasp it with both hands.

George Friend

Friend (L) training with Adam Clatyon before the season begins | Photo: MFC.co.uk
Friend (L) training with Adam Clatyon before the season begins | Photo: MFC.co.uk

It should come as no surpirse Friend played well, but the former Wolves player has been exemplary this summer.

Following the news that Leadbitter would miss pre-season and the season opener, it was obvious who the armband would be going to.

Since being signed by Tony Mowbray from Doncaster Rovers, Friend has become a fan favourite on Teeside, saying on record on multiple occasions how he loves the club, area and fans themselves.

Friend was an obvious choice for captaincy, should Leadbitter be unavailable as he sets such an example both on and off the field and he hasn't let Boro down when he's been wearing the shirt.

He has not done so when wearing the armband either, but this pre-season has shown he can be Boro's leader and will (barring some freak of nature) be leading his teammates out onto the Riverside turf next week.

There is an honourable mention for Ben Gibson here also, as he as shown he is capable of captaining his home town side with the upmost maturity in this pre-season.

Likliness to start against Stoke? 10/10 - This grade is for both Friend and Gibson. The two are nailed on to start the game, even if injuries hadn't left Middlesbrough's defense looking so bare. The leftsided centre back and left back partnership looks to be renewed for another season as Boro still look for a solution to their defensive frailties after Ayala was ruled out of the season starter.