Predicted Middlesbrough line-up to play Stoke

Middlesbrough celebrate with the trophy after being promoted to the Barclays Premier League

Boro get their Premier League campaign underway against Mark Hughes' Stoke this weekend.

Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka before the match

Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka has many selection headaches to ponder before naming his starting XI to face Stoke City on Boro's return to the top flight. While there are some players that have almost guaranteed spots in the team, there are plenty of places still very much up for grabs.

Who will start in goal? Boro have signed two keepers over the summer, in Victor Valdes and Brad Guzan. But Dimi Konstantopoulos has performed admirably in the Championship and many supporters want to see him get his chance at the highest level. 

Middlesbrough's Dimi Konstantopoulos celebrates

Who will partner Ben Gibson at centre-back? First-team regular Dani Ayala is injured, along with new signing Bernardo Espinosa. Youngster Dael Fry has shown that he is a name for the future, but perhaps it is too early for him to make his Premier League debut.

Alex Baptiste is one of the few members of the Boro squad with Premier League know-how, but spent the whole of last season out due to injury. Antonio Barragan was signed primarily as a right-back but has looked assured in the centre of defence during pre-season, so he may get the nod for the opening game. 

Middlesbrough's Ben Gibson in action

Who will form the attacking midfield three that Karanka likes to play as part of his 4-2-3-1 system? New signing Viktor Fischer has impressed in the warm up games, as has right-winger Albert Adomah.

Another new signing Gaston Ramirez has made a permanent return to Boro after his loan last season, where he was excellent in the number 10 role. But Stewart Downing has a multitude of Premier League games to his name, or could Karanka opt for the more direct Christian Stuani on the wing? 

Middlesbrough's Stewart Downing in action with Birmingham's Ryan Shotton

And who will start as the number one striker? Jordan Rhodes scored crucial goals towards the end of last season's promotion push and has continued with the scoring form in pre-season, but will Karanka unleash marquee loan signing Alvaro Negredo from the first whistle? Where does Negredo's arrival leave the dependable and tireless David Nugent? 

Middlesbrough's Jordan Rhodes celebrates their second goal

With these decisions in mind, here is a prediction as to how the Middlesbrough starting line-up might look on Saturday: 

 

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch