Eye on the Opposition - Middlesbrough - 10.09.2016

Written by Robert Sutherland

Palace play Middlesbrough on Saturday and Jack Pierce hopes Palace can give him a much needed lift...

Benteke Bournemouth

As I wandered around Chania's old town harbour with my better half nearly a fortnight ago, we sat down in a little taverna, ordered two drinks and watched the fishing boats come in.


What's this got to do with Middlesbrough vs Palace you may be thinking.

On in the background was West Brom vs Middlesbrough on a rather grainy TV screen. I paid it no attention until I went to the bar to settle up. I watched no more than 120 seconds of it but that was enough for it to come to me:

'Christ, I've got to write about Boro in less than a fortnight!'

I'll be honest, I've not given them much thought since and as I sit here writing this on the last full day of my holiday, I've decided to keep it short.

Promoted last season having denied our friends on the south coast on the last day of the campaign, Aitor Karanka's side are anticipated to have a good to middling chance of staying up given the high regard Karanka is held in as well as what appears a fairly decent squad built over the last few seasons.

Their seven year stay away from the top flight was a long time for the club's fans and owner, Steve Gibson. It was no surprise to see him open the old fashioned chequebook over the last couple of years on the likes of Stewart Downing, David Nugent and club record signing, Jordan Rhodes, while they were still in the second tier. Gibson's gamble paid off and Boro find themselves back in the top flight; even sweeter as they waved to their bitter rivals, Newcastle, as the two clubs swapped divisions.

Karanka's side remain unbeaten up till now with draws against Stoke and WBA sandwiching the derby win against Sunderland. There's reason for optimism among those related to Boro after such a start and they will be hoping to get their first win in front of their own faithful when we travel up to the north east this weekend.

In Karanka they've got a manager whose played in some very good teams and worked with some of the most high profile managers. You might also remember he was heavily linked with a job in SE25 post Ian Holloway's departure but that never materialised.

He's lasted in his job a lot longer than most managers employed in The Championship do and despite looking at one stage as though he might be off during last season, he remained in charge and led his side to promotion; the sole objective asked of him by Gibson.

Now it remains to be seen whether the Spaniard can navigate his way through a Premier League season but given his team's start and the willingness of the likes of Victor Valdes and Alvaro Negredo to come and play for him, Karanka may well defy the bookies and lead his side to safety come May.

Boro will welcome a Palace side relieved to pick its first point of the season up against Bournemouth courtesy of Scott Dann's header last time out. Consequently this game doesn't have the same weight as it might should his superb header not have found the back of the net a fortnight ago. It might only have earned a single point but the pressure on our manager would definitely be increased if we were still without a point and rooted to the foot of the table.

Either way, it would be a great result for the red and blue should we bring three points back from the north east on Saturday.

If nothing else, it would certainly aide my holiday blues.

Jack writes FYP's Eye on the Opposition pieces every week. Follow Jack on Twitter!

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