Date: 13th August 2016 at 9:45am
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The Riverside Stadium will host its first Premier League fixture in seven years on Saturday afternoon as newly-promoted Middlesbrough welcome Stoke City.

Boro return to the top-flight for the first time since relegation from the division in May 2009, and concluded their prolonged exile in the second-tier by finishing runners-up to Burnley last term.

Aitor Karanka, the club’s Spanish manager since November 2013, guided the Teesside outfit back to the promised land after a final day draw with Brighton and Hove Albion on home soil was enough to begin the promotion celebrations.

Karanka has acquired no fewer than nine new faces to overhaul his playing squad, with compatriots Victor Valdes and Alvaro Negredo joining the likes of Gaston Ramirez, Brad Guzan, Viktor Fischer and Fabio in making the move to the north-east.

30th April 2016 - Barclays Premier League - Stoke City v Sunderland - Marko Arnautovic of Stoke celebrates after scoring their 1st goal - Photo: Simon Stacpoole / Offside.

Marko Arnautovic signed a new four-year deal at Stoke this summer – Photo: Simon Stacpoole / Offside.

Stoke City, partaking in their ninth consecutive season in the Premier League, will look to spoil the big day for the expectant Middlesbrough faithful though.

The Staffordshire-based club ended last season in ninth position in the league for the second year in a row, with expectations of a top-eight breakthrough very much a possibility.

Hughes’ side have strengthened this summer in a bid to push onto the next level, making a statement of intent with the £13 million signing of midfielder Joe Allen from Liverpool.

However, City are coming up against a Boro team who were extremely tight at the back last term, only conceding eight goals in 23 home games.

Middlesbrough and Stoke last met at the Riverside eight years ago. On that day, goals from Afonso Alves and Tuncay Sanli secured a 2-1 victory against a Stoke side who were in their maiden month of their inaugural season.

Team News:

Central defender Daniel Ayala is a major doubt for Middlesbrough’s opening Premier League encounter having missed the pre-season schedule with an ankle injury.

James Husband (shoulder) and Grant Leadbitter (hernia) are the only two guaranteed absentees that Karanka will be forced to contend with.

Stoke are set to be without their first-choice goalkeeper, Jack Butland, who will miss the Riverside curtain-raiser after jarring his knee in training on Friday.

Veteran 40-year-old Shay Given is likely to deputise against the club where he spent time on loan at during the 2013/14 season, while the Potters will also be missing Ibrahim Afellay (knee) and Stephen Ireland (broken leg), while Glen Johnson is struggling with a thigh injury.

Last season: Middlesbrough – 2nd (Championship – 89pts): Stoke City – 9th (Premier League – 51pts)
Last Meeting: Stoke City 1-0 Middlesbrough (March 21, 2009)
League Form: Middlesbrough – WWDDDD; Stoke City – LLLDLW
Key Men: Middlesbrough – Alvaro Negredo; Stoke City – Joe Allen
Shoot Says: Middlesbrough 1-2 Stoke City

 
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