Middlesbrough newcomer appreciates importance of early Sunderland clash

Michael Chopra races away in the last Sunderland-Middlesbrough league clash, at the Stadium of Light in 2008. Sunderland won 2-0
Michael Chopra races away in the last Sunderland-Middlesbrough league clash, at the Stadium of Light in 2008. Sunderland won 2-0
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New Middlesbrough signing Marten de Roon is excited by the glamour games in the Premier League fixture list.

But the midfielder cannot wait to taste derby action when Boro head up the A19 to tackle Sunderland in the second week of the new season – Sunday, August 21.

De Roon joined the Teessiders from Serie A outfit Atalanta in midweek, and knows how important the Stadium of Light fixture will be for the Boro fans, back in the top flight for the first time since 2009.

“They’re all really nice fixtures, but I think for the fans, the game against Sunderland will be one of the best,” De Roon told mfc.co.uk.

“That’s also really important for the players.

“Against the big clubs from history, I think Liverpool is a nice club to play – especially in their stadium.

“I just want us to be good this season and hopefully we can do well and end in the places that will keep us in the Premier League.”

Another Boro new boy, former Ajax winger Viktor Fischer is relishing the make-up of the Premier League.

“There are so many big matches, that’s one of the reasons you come here,” the 22-year-old Dane told mfc.co.uk.

“We all know the big clubs, Chelsea, (Manchester) United, Liverpool, Arsenal – those are all really big games.

“For me, the game against Tottenham, and Christian Eriksen, a really good friend of mine, is going to be really exciting.

“Kasper Schmeichel at Leicester is also going to be nice.”

Fischer added: “I’m really excited to start and show everyone here in Middlesbrough we can do something big.”

Boro begin their pre-season campaign with a friendly trip to York City this afternoon, and they have arranged a friendly against Spanish club Real Betis – to be played in Marbella on Tuesday, July 19 – during their week-long training camp in southern Spain. Betis, who were mid-table finishers last season, are managed by ex-Sunderland boss Gus Poyet.

Boro will play two more behind-closed-doors training matches in Spain as they build up for the big Premier League kick-off against Stoke on August 13.

Their pre-season also features visits to League Two club Doncaster Rovers (July 16) and Aston Villa, newly relegated to the Championship, on July 30.

Boss Aitor Karanka plans to field two separate teams in each half of the Bootham Crescent friendly.

“We want to change players, to get fit as soon as possible,” Karanka said. “Every single day our aim is to work just a little bit better than the day before.”