September 08, 2016

Middlesbrough will be expecting to maintain their strong start to the Premier League season when they welcome struggling Crystal Palace to the Riverside on Saturday.

Boro (1-2-0) are yet to be beaten in theIR first top-flight campaign for eight years, but defender Dani Ayala insists that the players aren't feeling overconfident. They'll look to extend that run when they face a Palace side who have managed just a single goal in their opening three matches.

"We have five points from three games, but we know it is just the start," Ayala said. "In this league you can lose games in the blink of an eye.

"You are coming up against the best strikers. If you lose the ball you know they are going to score. We have to keep getting points - we can't rest on our laurels."

Boro's chances against Palace (0-1-2) will be improved with the availability of summer signings Marten de Roon and Victor Valdes after the pair recovered from injuries that have kept them out since the opening weekend

"Thankfully, they are OK and ready to play," manager Aitor Karanka said. "It's really good news because we have a nice problem to choose the best 11, and the best seven for the bench.

"All of (the players) deserve to be involved, but they understand that we have to think about the best for the team."

However, Boro still will have some absentees with Grant Leadbitter out until December with a hernia and James Husband still recovering from a dislocated shoulder.

Saturday's visitors to Teesside have enjoyed a disappointing start to the campaign, failing to find the net against West Brom and Tottenham Hotspur on the opening two matchdays before grinding out a 1-1 draw with Bournemouth prior to the international break.

Keen to add some leadership to a rudderless squad, Palace manager Alan Pardew has brought in free agent and former Arsenal midfielder Mathieu Flamini this week - a decision that the coach thinks could really benefit the team.

"I thought it was important to get another midfield player," Pardew said. "His playing ability will help us but also his leadership qualities and his ability of how to win games in a passing style. I am delighted that we have secured a player of his stature."

Flamini could be in line to make an immediate debut due to doubts over the fitness of fellow central midfielders James McArthur and Yohan Cabaye. Bakary Sako is also a doubt for the Eagles, but forward Loic Remy - on loan from Chelsea - is definitely out.

New Boro striker Alvaro Negredo has been involved in all three of his side's goals so far this season (one goal and two assists), whereas Palace new boy Christian Benteke failed to score on his debut for the club. The Belgium international was also called offside five times against Bournemouth, giving him the highest number in the division despite only playing a single match.

Saturday's meeting will be the first top-flight clash between the two in over a decade. Middlesbrough won both games the last time these two were in the Premier League, and Palace have never picked up three points at the Riverside in five attempts.

You May Like

Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)