Sunderland v Middlesbrough: Three Boro dangermen ahead of Wear-Tees derby

Sunderland and Middlesbrough renew league rivalries after a seven-year break tomorrow, with both sides looking to register their first league wins of the season.

Friday, 19th August 2016, 10:37 pm
Updated Friday, 19th August 2016, 11:44 pm
The Middlesbrough squad celebrate promotion

With the Teessiders squad now unrecognisable from the one the Black Cats last faced, we take a look at three of Aitor Karanka's key players who are sure to have a big influence on Sunday's clash at the Stadium of Light (1.30pm kick-off).

George Friend

Formerly of Doncaster Rovers, Friend joined Middlesbrough in 2012 and quickly developed a reputation as one of the best defenders outside the Premier League.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

He slotted straight in to a strong Middlesbrough side and showed his versatility – playing primarily at left back but slotting in at centre back when needed.

His performances earned plenty of plaudits, as he was named in the PFA Championship Team of the Year for both the 2014-15 and 2015-16 season.

Having recently been handed a new four year contract, Friend will be looking forward to trying his hand in the Premier League this season.

He's sure to be a tough foe for whichever of his attacking options David Moyes deploys on Sunday.

Gaston Ramirez

A Uruguayan international, Ramirez seems to have found a home at the Riverside Stadium after a difficult start to his time in England.

The attacking midfielder started his career at Penarol in his native country, before moving to Bologna in Serie A. His performances put him on the radar of a number of clubs, and Southampton swooped to sign him for a fee of £12million in 2012.

His time at St. Mary's was difficult, though.

Deployed in a more defensive role than he prefers, Ramirez struggled to make a tangible impact on the South Coast as he found the net only eight times in 55 appearances.

A loan spell to Hull City failed to recapture his form, but his arrival at the Riverside in January of this year saw him back to his best.

Netting seven goals in 18 appearances, the Uruguayan relished the attacking role he was given by Aitor Karanka and was promptly snapped up by Boro upon his release from Southampton.

He's started life back in the Premier League well too, teeing up Alvaro Negredo for the opener in a 1-1 draw with Stoke last weekend.

Sunderland's holding midfielder and centre backs will need to be aware to prevent Ramirez finding the space he craves at the Stadium of Light.

Alvaro Negredo

Perhaps the Middlesbrough signing that turned the most heads this summer was that of Alvaro Negredo on a season-long loan from Valencia.

Negredo has past experiences of the Premier League having joined Manchester City in 2013 and he bagged 23 goals in his 48 appearances in the North West.

The most prolific spell of his career came at Sevilla, where he found the net 70 and average a goal every two games.

One of the main factors in Negredo's fine form at Los Rojiblancos was the partnership he developed with Luis Fabiano, and a similar partnership may be brewing with Gaston Ramirez at the Riverside Stadium.

Saturday's draw with Stoke suggests that Karanka intends to play Negredo as a lone striker with Ramirez, Albert Adomah and Stewart Downing intending to provide him with plenty of ammunition.

David Moyes will no doubt be wary of the goal-threat Negredo carries, and his defenders will have to seek to cut out the supply to the Spanish international on Sunday.