Middlesbrough-West Brom Preview
Middlesbrough haven't seen the English top-flight since the 2008-09 season, but that hasn't stopped the Riverside club from getting off to an impressive start upon their return.
Aitor Karanka's boys have done well to earn four points from their opening two fixtures and aim to earn more Sunday when they travel to The Hawthorns to face West Bromwich Albion.
Boro (1-1-0) got off to a flying start in their home return to the Premier League on Aug. 13 when Alvaro Negredo gave the hosts the lead after 13 minutes. Stoke, though, pulled back the equalizer through Xherdan Shaqiri with 23 minutes.
Despite dropping two points in their first match, the club rebounded well last week with an impressive 2-1 win over Sunderland thanks to a brace from Cristhian Stuani. Patrick van Aanholt pulled one back for Sunderland, but the Teesiders held on.
"The most important thing is the points," Karanka said. "It is always most important to win the game. But it is especially important in a derby, for the crowd. They have been waiting for this moment. I am pleased for the players, and for them."
"As a manager, you want to have the best players," he continued. "When you have those players, you know that you can score any time. We are building a very good squad and I am really pleased.
"We are playing really well, with our intensity, and it's important for us to continue to add points as soon as possible."
Middlesbrough are also aiming for a bounce-back effort at home following a midweek 2-1 defeat to Fulham in EFL Cup play.
"I said after the game against Sunderland that I was really pleased and confident with the team and now we have to recover as soon as possible," Karanka said. "Not just the legs, also our heads. We have to go to West Brom knowing that it's a really important game and the past is the past. We need to try and win the game again."
West Brom (1-0-1) are off to a decent start with three points from their opening two matches. Despite beginning the season with an impressive 1-0 win over Crystal Palace, the Baggies were disappointed with their capitulation and 2-1 loss to Everton last week. Gareth McCauley staked the hosts to an early lead after nine minutes, but Everton answered with goals from Kevin Mirallas in first-half stoppage time and Gareth Barry on the hour mark.
"I thought we played ever so well in the first half and the manner of Everton's goal in added time was annoying for us because we gave away possession," Pulis remarked. "If (Darren Fletcher) chance goes in at the start of the second half that changes the game.
"We're playing well and creating, but it's not just the chances that we're missing, we're getting into the final third and picking the wrong pass - it's just that bit of extra quality needed.
West Brom have won their last four league clashes with Middlesbrough, scoring 11 and conceding none. Their most recent victory over the Teesiders came in April 2010 - a 2-0 result at The Hawthorns.