Preston manager Simon Grayson expects tough test v Middlesbrough

Image: Simon Grayson: Expects a tough opener against Middlesbrough on Sunday afternoon.

Preston boss Simon Grayson expects a tough first test against Middlesbrough for his newly-promoted team on Sunday afternoon - live on Sky.

Grayson's men thrashed Swindon 4-0 at Wembley to secure promotion to the Championship via the play-offs.

But though Boro missed out on a Premier League place after losing their play-off showdown against Norwich, Grayson expects a side with Stewart Downing in their ranks to pose a difficult challenge.

Stewart Downing Middlesbrough 2009
Image: Stewart Downing: re-joins Middlesbrough this summer after leaving his hometown club in 2009.

"There’s a lot of pressure on Middlesbrough this year to get promotion to the Premier League," Grayson, speaking to Jonathan Oakes on Sky Sports' new FL72 Podcast, said.

"We’re under no illusions it’s going to be easy. Every game in the Championship is going to be difficult but all I’ll say to my players is go out and if you play against Stewart Downing, try and come out on top against him because psychologically what a confidence boost that can be to some of our lads for the rest of the season if they can keep him quiet."

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Grayson has signed six players from last year's squad on contracts, while securing loan deals for Jordan Pickford from Sunderland and Michael Keane from Manchester United.

And the former Huddersfield, Leeds and Blackpool boss believes the feelgood factor from their Wembley triumph can help them gain a positive result against one of the Championship's biggest spenders this summer.

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"We’ve got the momentum of the previous season," he added.

"We’re at home, we’re in front of the Sky cameras and we’ve got a lot of things going our way. In terms of them (Middlesbrough) they’ve recruited ever so well, showing their ambition of what they’re looking to do, but I don’t think any team throughout the country are 100% ready on that first game of the season for different reasons.

"It’s a good time to play them. Hopefully we can put on a performance and show people what we’re capable of doing."

Watch Preston v Middlesbrough live on Sky Sports 5HD from 11.55am on Sunday.

Download the first FL72 Podcast - featuring Simon Grayson, Oxford United boss Michael Appleton, Sky pundits David Prutton and Peter Beagrie and Sky Bet's Dale Tempest - and subscribe via iTunes to hear it first every Thursday.

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