Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka highlights Stoke strengths

Stoke's Bojan Krkic in action with Sunderland's Sebastian Larsson

Middlesbrough kick off their season against Stoke, and Karanka has commented on their opponents' strengths in today's pre-match interview.

Middlesbrough manager Aitor KarankaMiddlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka

In Friday's press conference, as reported by the Gazette, looking ahead to the curtain raiser against Stoke at the Riverside, Aitor Karanka has given a glowing reference to the Potters.

He said: “I think they’re a good team, They have a really experienced manager in Mark Hughes, and they have good players.

“It’ll be a tough game. They played together last season and finished in the top half, and I know a few of them - especially some of the Spanish players." 

Karanka believes that Bojan, a talent that he became aware of during his time in the Spanish youth team set-up, is the key player for Stoke going into this season.

"Bojan is a player I like a lot as he plays in that position I like, the No 10. We’ve never been together, he was in the Spanish Under-19s and Under-20s when I was there he went to the first squad. He’s a good player, a really good kid and I’m pleased with his performances here (in England)."

Stoke's Bojan Krkic in action with Newcastle's Vurnon Anita as Daryl Janmaat (L) looks onStoke's Bojan Krkic in action with Newcastle's Vurnon Anita as Daryl Janmaat (L) looks on

However, the Boro boss was quick to point out that Bojan was not the sole threat that this Stoke side possesses. "They also have Joselu, Mame Biram Diouf, Walters and Arnautovic.

"So they have good players, but for us, it’s nice as we can play against them.” 

With so much attacking firepower, it is clear that Karanka is expecting a big performance from his defensive unit, including his goalkeeper.

But it appears that the Middlesbrough squad are relishing the challenge of the Premier League, and can't wait to test themselves against Stoke in front of a full house at the Riverside. 

David Nugent celebrates with team mates after scoring the second goal for MiddlesbroughDavid Nugent celebrates with Carlos de Pena 

Boro had a strong defensive record in the Championship, but this is stepping up a level, against players who are international quality and seasoned Premier league performers.

Stoke looked at one point last season to be pushing for a Europa League spot, and if Middlesbrough can knock them off on opening day it will be a great start for Karanka's men.

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