Boro open their season against the Blues, with serious optimism prevalent again among the Riverside faithful, buoyed by the club’s strong finish to last season and some significant summer recruitment, with Karanka busy working on several incoming deals in the build-up to this afternoon’s game.
Finalising moves to sign Huddersfield Town midfielder Adam Clayton and Spanish right-back Damia Abella were occupying the head coach’s attention yesterday, with the Basque having previously been busy bringing in the likes of £2.7m striker Kike, who is set to make his debut against Lee Clark’s side this afternoon.
It has all added to a feelgood factor at the Riverside, where the fans witnessed one of Boro’s most impressive home performances of 2013-14 when they beat Birmingham 3-1 in a memorable game in April which saw Ben Gibson and Kenneth Omeruo dismissed for the hosts and Lee Tomlin score his first goals for the club.
Karanka said: “People asked why I was so happy after the Birmingham game last season because we weren’t playing for anything.
“That day at the Riverside was amazing for me because we finished the game with nine players and you would think we had just won the Champions League final by the noise the fans made.
“The togetherness between the team and the fans was fantastic and we need that with it being such a long season.
“That is the feeling I want to translate to the players.
“I’m sure that over the season we will have some difficult moments to face but we have to stick together because it will be tough.”