Boss Aitor Karanka admits that he will have to take Middlesbrough’s summer signings into double figures, with a new centre-back a priority.
Injuries to central defenders Daniel Ayala (ankle) and Bernardo Espinosa (cruciate ligament) have left Boro short at the back, despite their nine close-season captures.
Youngster Dael Fry partnered Ben Gibson in central defence in Saturday’s 3-1 friendly win at Aston Villa and Karaoke wants to strengthen in that area.
The Spaniard said: “The better players we have, the more chance we have to stay in the Premier League. We need more (new signings) because we don’t have central defenders. With the injuries we have, we need to improve.
“I don’t want to put all the pressure on Dael Fry, for example, as he’s been brilliant and he has a bright future –he’s improving every single day. But he needs to keep going forward and do the right steps.
“For that reason, we need to bring in more in that area. But we have the nucleus of the team done.”
Boro produced an excellent second-half display as they came from behind to win at Villa, who led when defender Nathan Baker outjumped his markers at the back post to nod Leandro Bacuna’s cross past keeper Victor Valdes.
Loan signing Alvaro Negredo levelled matters, slotting home after keeper Pierluigi Gollini could only parry a strike from the lively Viktor Fischer.
Fischer then drove home a clinical second from the edge of the box on a rapid three-man break, before Jordan Rhodes headed home for 3-1. “I’m really pleased especially because in the first half it was a good wake-up call,” said Karanka.
“Everybody had a lot of expectation and I think it was important to go to the changing room losing 1-0, and to go to the pitch for the second half knowing we had to fight for every ball against a Championship team.
“Aston Villa are playing in the Championship, but most of them were playing in the Premier League last season. I’m pleased we fixed our mistakes from the first half and it was good for everybody.
“I told them (at half-time) that we needed to increase our intensity because sometimes when we are signing players and you’re in the Premier League, you can forget you have to work a lot to win games. The first half was a good reflection of that, but in the second half we were much better.”
Boro take on Udinese in Italy on Wednesday before returning to host Real Sociedad in Saturday’s final friendly.
Aston Villa: Gollini; Baker (Amavi 87), Bacuna (Green 75), Gestede, Elphick, W
estwood, Ayew, Hutton, Gardner (Tshibola 46), Cissokho (Clark 87), Grealish. Middlesbrough: Valdes; Nsue, Fry, Gibson, Friend), Adomah (Stuani 75), Clayton, De Roon (Forshaw 70), Downing (Reach 75), Fischer (Nugent 75), Negredo (Rhodes 75). Subs: Konstantopoulos, Barragan, Baptiste, De Pena, De Sart.
Att: 14,863 (869 Boro)