Aitor Karanka admits Middlesbrough are better than he thought
By Andrew Dickson
Last Updated: 19/08/16 2:03pm
Aitor Karanka admits Middlesbrough's players showed they were better than he thought when they drew their Premier League opener with Stoke.
They led 1-0 at home to Mark Hughes' side through Alvaro Negredo's goal but were denied victory at the Riverside Stadium when Xherdan Shaqiri levelled midway through the second half.
Although they did not find a winner, Karanka felt they deserved more and took an unexpected positive from the game.
He said: "Last week was good because some players showed they are better than I thought. It was a pleasant surprise.
"I knew how good they are and were in the past and working since the beginning of pre-season has been good.
"To play in the Premier League with eight players who had never played in this level against a team who finished ninth last season, a team with a lot of good players, was difficult.
"I was pleased as even when we weren't 100 per cent, the team was consistent and played with a good attitude. We looked good when we played with intensity.
"After our performance, I thought this week would be more relaxed. Sometimes when you play well you can think you're better than you are but everyone has been good and focussed in training."
Middlesbrough will look to follow their 1-1 draw up with victory in their derby with Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on Sunday, live on Sky Sports 1.
Karanka appreciates local bragging rights are at stake but remains conscious of the bigger picture as he looks for safety from the club's first season back in the top flight.
He added: "Since I arrived here I've heard how big and important this game is for everyone. It's my first derby, it's an important game for everybody but for us it's three points.
"We need points in the Premier League and we know it'll be a difficult game. It's a tough game as derbies are different games, always.
"[David] Moyes has been there for a few weeks but the job he's done in the past has been amazing.
"We need to think about ourselves, play in our style and try to win. We have to think it's just three points."
Negredo is a likely starter after his strike against Stoke and Karanka is happy with the progress the former Manchester City forward is making.
The Spaniard - who expects summer signing Marten de Roon's hamstring injury to only keep him out for a fortnight - said: "His goal against Stoke was important, as was his goal against Alcorcon in his first game.
"He's a top player and the only thing he needed was to recover his confidence. Now he's confident, happy on the pitch and good with his team-mates."