Boro boss confident of Premier goal threat ahead of big-time return

Boro manager Aitor Karanka
Boro manager Aitor Karanka
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Boss Aitor Karanka is confident that Middlesbrough will have the firepower necessary to make an impact in the Premier League this season.

Boro return to the top flight for the first time since 2009 when they entertain Mark Hughes’s Stoke City at the Riverside tomorrow (3pm kick-off).

The Teessiders’ summer arrivals have bolstered Karanka’s belief in his frontmen being able to thrive, with the Spaniard saying: “We have brought in Alvaro (Negredo), Viktor Fischer, and Marten de Roon, who is not prolific but scores goals.

“If you add them to Nugent, Ramirez, Rhodes, Downing, Adomah, the players we had last season, I am really confident.”

Former Sunderland midfielder Grant Leadbitter misses out with the hernia problem which was not sorted by a close-season operation, alongside defenders Dani Ayala and Bernardo Espinosa.

Karanka said of the two centre-backs, as he revealed no further injury problems in his squad: “Both have trained with the team this week. Then there is only Grant and he is long-term. The rest of the team is really good.

“I am really pleased because we have had a few injuries over the past two or three weeks, but now everyone is training, except for Grant.

“For me, it’s a really good thing to arrive at my desk and to have that headache, to choose the right players.”

Karanka has four goalkeepers vying for the first-team starting spot – summer signings Victor Valdes and Brad Guzan plus last season’s promotion-winners Dimi Konstantopoulous and Tomas Mejias.

He says he knows who will be in goal against the Potters, but will not reveal his decision until matchday.

Debutant de Roon, snapped up from Italians Atalanta, is relishing his Premier bow.

“It’s amazing,” said de Roon. “One year ago I was in the Dutch league then I moved to Italy.

“But in one year to go from the Dutch league to the Premier League... it’s something so big. To be part of the Premier League with Middlesbrough is amazing.

“I want to play my part. I hope I can be useful and helpful and I think that’s the most important thing – that I can help the team.

“Together we can stay in the Premier League.”