Excitement grows as Boro await Stoke City opener
Aitor Karanka admits that the excitement of this weekend's Premier League return has Middlesbrough buzzing.
The Teessiders ended their pre-season programme with a closely contested goalless draw against Spaniards Real Sociedad at the Riverside.
Now the focus switches to this Saturday’s big kick-off at home to Stoke City as Boro play their first top-flight match since 2009.
Karanka said: “I think since May 7, everybody’s been thinking about the game on Saturday.
“Everyone is really excited for the season, and I am one of them.”
Five new arrivals had their first taste of the Riverside against Sociedad, and Karanka added: “The players were looking forward to this game because we played at home with the crowd. Now we have a week to prepare everything, one week to mix what we’ve done this pre-season and we’re really looking forward to the league.”
Karanka believes that the Sociedad clash was a handy test, following on from the 0-0 midweek draw with Udinese in Italy.
“I wanted to play because this last test was really important,” insisted Karanka.
“It wasn’t our best, but we played against a really good team. I am pleased we have no new injuries, and it was another 90 minutes for a few players, another 70 minutes for some others.”
Boro defended well against their La Liga visitors, with Emilio Nsue, Antonio Barragan, Ben Gibson and George Friend combining well.
Visiting skipper Xabi Prieto, though, got the better of them only to fire just wide of goal, while Juanmi shot over the bar after creating a half-chance.
Boro’s best times came after the break, Alvaro Negredo heading just over the top, while David Nugent forced keeper Toni Ramirez into an excellent save.
Juanmi missed a glorious opportunity late on for the Basque outfit, blazing over the bar from seven yards.
Middlesbrough: Valdes (Konstantopoulos 72); Nsue, Friend, De Roon, Barragan, Gibson, Downing (Stuani 79), Clayton (Forshaw 46), Negredo (Nugent 72), Ramirez (Rhodes 79), Fischer (Adomah 46). Subs: Guzan, Mejias, Baptiste, De Pena, Reach, Jackson, De Sart.
Real Sociedad: Ramirez; Gonzalez, Illarramendi (Zubeldia 85), Bergara (Granero 70), I Martinez, Juanmi, Preito (Vela 70), Zurutiza, Oyarzabal (Sanz 46), Berchiche, Zaluda (C Martinez 85). Subs: Barjaji, Bautista, Pardo, Elustondo, Hernandez, Navas, Concha.
Att: 9,726. Ref: Neil Swarbrick.