Middlesbrough vs Stoke City:
Date: Saturday 13th August 2016
Venue: Riverside Stadium, Middlesborough
Latest betting odds: (bet365):
Middlesbrough: [11/8] Draw: [11/5] Stoke: [12/5]
Our tip: Stoke to win, and BTTS [NO]: 4/1
Long-shot: Marko Arnautovic to score first, and Stoke City to win 2-0 – 60/1.
After seven long years, Boro are finally back where they belong in the big time. For the first time since 2009 on Saturday, The Riverside Stadium will play host to Premier League football as The Potters head up north to open their 2016/17 campaign, where big things are expected of Mark Hughes side.
It’s been a fantastic summer for Boro already in terms of recruitment, as they have brought in the likes of Alvaro Negredo, Viktor Fischer, Victor Valdes, Brad Guzan etc.
The addition of Negredo, who is expected to partner Jordan Rhodes up top on Saturday will certainly cause Philipp Wollscheid and Ryan Shawcross some headaches as they will will be up against two very powerful forwards who will relish the physical battle.
It’s not the ideal game for Stoke by any stretch of the imagination, as The Riverside will be absolutely bouncing tomorrow, and Stoke are coming up against a team that only conceded 8 goals at home last season in 24 games.
There is no doubt they will be up for the test, and under the supervision of Aitor Karanka, it could be a long afternoon for The Potters.
If Twitter is anything to go by, Boro will be lining up 4-4-2 on Saturday, as Aitor Karanka posted a photo to his Twitter account seemingly with a 4-4-2 formation set up on the whiteboard behind him.
Boro will be boosted by the return from injury of Daniel Ayala, who was an instrumental part of their defensive solidarity last campaign.
Middlesbrough facts [BBC Sport]:
- Middlesbrough conceded 31 goals in last season’s Championship, including just eight at home – both figures were the lowest in the second tier.
- Boro have won their first Premier League game just twice in 14 seasons.
- However, they did win their opening match in their last Premier League campaign, beating Tottenham 2-1 in 2008.
- Middlesbrough striker Alvaro Negredo scored eight goals in his first 17 Premier League appearances for Manchester City in 2013-14 but netted just once in his subsequent 15 games.
Middlesbrough FC Transfers 2016/17:
Viktor Fischer – Ajax, £3.7m
Bernando Espinosa – Sporting Gijon, free transfer
Jordan McGhee – Hearts, loan
Brad Guzan – Aston Villa, free
Alvaro Negredo – Valencia, loan
Victor Valdes – free
Marten de Roon – Atalanta, £12m
Jonathan Woodgate – released
Damia Abella – released
Rhys Williams – Perth Glory, free
Jonathan Burn – Kilmarnock, loan
Jordan Jones – Kilmarnock, free
Andre Bennett – released
Conor Ripley – Oldham, loan.
Middlesbrough Predicted Line-Up:
Valdes; Nsue, Ayala, Gibson, Friend; Clayton, De Roon; Fischer, Ramirez; Negredo, Rhodes.
Stoke City FC:
It’s been a quiet summer on Stoke-on-Trent so far, however, it’s another window that The Potters have done more astute business.
Just as it looked like Marko Arnautovic was on his way to Everton, it was reported that he had agreed a new contact with Stoke, something which the club later confirmed to be true.
Just a few days before that, Stoke also announced the signings of Egyptian winger, Ramadan Sobhi, and Welsh midfielder, Joe Allen from Liverpool for a combined total of £18m.
Whist there has not been a lot of ins on outs at Stoke this summer, it’s a sign of how satisfied Mark Hughes is with his current team.
Coming off a successful warm up game against Hamburg, Hughes is expected to hand Allen his first Stoke City start, whilst Mame Diouf is expected to start the season as Stoke’s main forward.
I feel that although this won’t be a popular decision, and one that could bite me on the back, in my honest opinion I feel Stoke stand more of a chance of winning tomorrow’s game if Bojan is dropped.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Bojan just as much as the next man, but I feel a midfield trio of Allen, Imbula and Whelan would really control the tempo of a game that will be fast paced.
Sometimes, Bojan can go missing in games away from home, and tomorrow I feel it may be the appropriate time to drop Bojan in order to gain more control in central midfield.
However, should Hughes decide to opt with the Spaniard, perhaps he can be the bag of tricks to unlock a potentially tricky midfield partnership in De Roon and Clayton.
Hughes will be boosted by a relatively clean bill of health with Glen Johnson the only real doubt for The Potters, whilst Ibrahim Afellay and Stephen Ireland continue to be ruled out until late 2016.
Stoke City Facts [BBC Sport]:
- Stoke have conceded 36 Premier League goals in 2016 – more than any other side currently in the top flight.
- The Potters are winless in their last six Premier League games on the opening weekend, losing four of those matches.
- Their only previous win on the opening weekend of a Premier League season came against Burnley in 2009.
- Mark Hughes has lost just one of his last eight Premier League meetings with Middlesbrough as manager, winning six of those games.
- Stoke have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last 10 Premier League away games.
Stoke City Transfers 2016/17:
Joe Allen – Liverpool, £13m
Ramadan Sobhi – Al Ahly, £5m
Peter Odemwinge – released
Steve Sidwell – Brighton, free
Mark Waddington – Kilmarnock, loan
Ben Barber – York City, free.
Stoke City Predicted Line-Up:
Butland; Bardsley, Shawcross, Wollscheid, Pieters; Imbula, Allen, Whelan; Shaqiri, Arnautovic, Diouf.