Ayala misses out on return in Boro’s final pre-season friendly against Real Sociedad

Happier times as Middlesbrough defender Daniel Ayala celebrates romotion to the Premier League last season
Happier times as Middlesbrough defender Daniel Ayala celebrates romotion to the Premier League last season
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Middlesbrough’s hopes of fielding centre-back Daniel Ayala in tomorrow’s final pre-season friendly have been dashed.

Ayala has not played a single minute in the Teessiders’ friendly campaign, having been laid low by an ankle problem, but Boro had been confident that he could be fit to play a part against Real Sociedad at the Riverside tomorrow (3pm kick-off).

But the former Norwich defender again misses out, and he must be highly unlikely to figure in next Saturday’s Premier League opener at home to Stoke City.

Boro must also do without long-term injury victim Bernard Espinosa, who has been out with a knee injury since January when he was still with Spanish outfit Sporting Gijon.

Espinosa, a free transfer capture from Gijon this summer, has begun light training but is not expected to be available for action until next month at the earliest.

Summer signing Marten De Roon was absent from Wednesday night’s goalless friendly against Udinese in Italy but looks set to have a role to play against Sociedad.

Boss Aitor Karanka said of the midfielder: “Marten took a kick on his hip at Villa (in last weekend’s 3-1 friendly win). It’s nothing serious. He probably could have played against Udinese but we didn’t want to take a chance.”

Sociedad are also in action away to Burnley tonight, before tackling Boro tomorrow. Admission charges for the Riverside have been pegged at £10 (adults) and £5 (concessions).

Meanwhile, Boro – who have made eight close-season signings already as they prepare for their top-flight return after seven years away – are reportedly tracking Lazio centre-back Wesley Hoedt, although Southampton are also said to be interested in the 22-year-old Dutchman.

He has only had one season in Italy, having joined from AZ Alkmaar last summer.