Middlesbrough vs Stoke City Preview: Boro looking for win on Premier League return

Stoke City will be the first team to visit the Riverside Stadium for a Premier League game in seven years when they take on Middlesbrough.

Middlesbrough vs Stoke City Preview: Boro looking for win on Premier League return
Photo: VAVEL/Jonathan Walsh

Middlesbrough will mark their seven-year absence to the Premier League, by hosting Stoke City in the opening game of the season.

It has been a long summer on Teesside for Boro fans, as they have hotly anticipated the return to the English top-flight.

Aitor Karanka's side have been waiting seven years for their return, but it was almost snatched away at the end of last season.

However a home draw with close Championship rivals Brighton & Hove Albion, saw them finally seal their return.

Hosts ready for return

Boro certainly look prepared for their long-awaited return, securing eight first-team recruits, with the highlights been the likes of Victor Valdes and Alvaro Negredo.

They remained undefeated in pre-season, and Karanka believes his side is ready for the season ahead.

He told mcfc.co.uk "We have to work harder because the Premier League is not the Championship but I’m really pleased, especially to play the first game at home."

Karanka concluded: “I think we are ready. All of us are ready, all of us are looking forward to playing on Saturday," and "We’ve been working really hard for the last two-and-a-half years to be in this position.”

Stoke moving onto the next step

While Boro have been slaving away in the second tier for seven years, Stoke City have been working hard to establish themselvves as a top-ten side.

Mark Hughes surprised many with the arrival of Xherdan Shaqiri last summer, to add to an already talented squad, but could only finish ninth in the table.

​It was the Potters' third consecutive ninth placed finish, and it seems that the natural progression for Hughes' side will be to battle for the Europa League places.

Above: Mark Hughes on the Stoke City touchline | Photo: Bongarts/Getty Images
Above: Mark Hughes on the Stoke City touchline | Photo: Bongarts/Getty Images

​Looking for a bright start

They can't compare to the number of signings that Boro have made, but what business they have done, they have done well.

Joe Allen and Ramadan Sobhi have been brought in, as well as retaining key player Arnautovic, and Hughes is looking for a bright start on Teesside.

He told Stoke City Player: It’s always important to get points on the board as early as you can."

He continued: “The fixture computer throws up a testing schedule most years for us during the initial stages of the season," but believes "It is what it is and we have to make sure we are ready for it, which I feel we are."

Hughes concluded: “It could have been easier, but at this stage of the season we are just really looking forward to it, so bring it on!”

Team news

Hughes confirmed in his pre-match press conference, that his only serious concern for Saturday is full-back Glen Johnson, who is suffering with a Rectus Femoris injury.

Stephen Ireland will be available after a long lay-off, with Arnautovic and Shaqiri expected to play a part in the North East, with the latter only playing a minimal part in the friendly with Harmburger SV.

A big blow for Karanka's side will be the absence of defender Daniel Ayala, who played no part in the pre-season preparations.

James Husband and Grant Leadbitter will be the only other absentees, with a number of summer transfers pushing for a start against the Potters.

Middlesbrough will take on Stoke City at the Riverside Stadium on Saturday, August 13 with kick-off at 3pm BST.