Former Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka has backed his old club to make an instant return to the top flight, gaining promotion from the Championship as league winners, according to the Sun.
Spaniard Karanka was sacked by Boro in March, having guided them into the Premier League relegation places, from where they were unable to recover.
However, he showed the high regard in which he holds the players he used to manage, as well as new Boro boss Garry Monk and his ambitious new arrivals, by tipping them for the top spot in the second tier.
Karanka was keen to emphasise that, although he clearly still holds the club in high regard, and enjoyed his time at the Riverside and still lives in the North East, his prediction was made with the cold judgement of his head, and not just his heart.
This is to do with the ambition of Steve Gibson and the early business he has done, especially in adding firepower to the Boro attack, which was largely anemic in the Premier League last season, ultimately causing the Teesside club to drop back into the second tier after just one season back in the big time.
Karanka tipped Aston Villa, managed by Steve Bruce, and having invested in Premier League experience in the shape of John Terry and Glenn Whelan, to join Boro in making the jump.
Karanka stopped short of picking three teams who will go down, but named the likes of Barnsley, Burton Albion, Sheffield United, Millwall, Bolton Wanderers and Bristol City as those who were the likeliest to be in the relegation battle.
While it would be easy to dismiss Karanka’s prediction as too biased, it is tough to look past Middlesbrough as the team to beat this season.
In Monk, they have made a really shrewd managerial appointment and they have brought in no shortage of firepower, to rectify their major weakness from last season – their woes in front of goal.
When asked to predict a top two last week, Boro were my only certainties, with countless other sides in the battle for the other promotion spot – they have quality all over the pitch.
Boro fans – what do you make of Karanka’s comments? Are you promotion favourites? Let us know in the comments below…