IT is rare for two bosses boasting previous stints at Real Madrid on their coaching CV to line up in opposite dug-outs in England – let alone in the Championship.
But that is the common link between Boro head coach Aitor Karanka and his Derby counterpart Paul Clement and the pair possess another sense of symmetry.
Both Karanka and Clement served as assistant managers at Real – to Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti respectively – and each are now at the helm of well-heeled clubs who are right at the forefront of the Championship betting for promotion. Karanka is sure that Derby are one of the teams to beat this term.
He said: “They have very good players, a very good coach, a very good squad.
“I am sure Paul (Clement) will be successful. I’ve never met him, but you don’t need to meet people to know how good they are.”
While Derby’s squad resources are among the strongest in the division, you sense Karanka would not trade it for the depth of talent at his disposal, which he believes is stronger than 12 months ago.
Last season, Boro dropped nine points in August ahead of the arrival of Patrick Bamford and Jelle Vossen, but with the likes of David Nugent, Christian Stuani and Stewart Downing already on deck – and possibly more to come – the Teessiders have a stronger look.
Karanka added: “We are much, much better than we were at this point last season. We have a very good team.”
Last six games: Derby DDLDLD; Middlesbrough WWLDWW.
Referee: S Martin (Staffs).
Last time: Derby 0 Middlesbrough 1; March 17, 2015.