TONY Mowbray is expecting a “cup final” atmosphere when Middlesbrough’s Championship season kicks off at Barnsley tomorrow.
Given the unpredictable nature of the campaign curtain-raiser, the Riverside chief is relieved that the fixture is away from Teesside.
“It’s a cup-final type game on that first day,” said Mowbray.
“They can be intense affairs which can go either way.
“So my preference would always be to play it away.
“I would rather that so you can then come back to two games at home.
“But wherever you play on the opening day it’s always tough.
“We found that last year against Portsmouth.
“Ultimately they were relegated, but it was a difficult game on that first day and we only drew.
“Barnsley will be focussed and hard working, just like the part of the country they come from, and we will have to be at our best to get a result.”
England Under-21 left-back Joe Bennett is Mowbray’s main fitness concern going into the game at Oakwell, and it looks likely that he will not be risked.
“Joe Bennett has trained the last few days and has looked fine,” explained the manager.
“It’s always good to have him on the training ground, he has amazing talent.
“But there are a lot of games coming up – six before the first international break.
“So we’ll have to see with Joe because he hasn’t played a competitive game for us yet.”
Meanwhile, Mowbray – who has brought in eight players over the summer – has not ruled out further additions before the end of August.
“We’re closer than we were earlier in the week (to a new signing), but there probably won’t be something done before tomorrow and I’m not concerned about that,” he said.
“I’m just looking at the bigger picture for the 46 league games, so that search continues.”
Barnsley hand a debut to non-contract signing David Gonzalez in goal following Ben Alnwick’s dismissal for a headbutt on his bow in the Capital One Cup last weekend. First-choice keeper Luke Steele is out injured.