Former Middlesbrough manager, Aitor Karanka has made his prediction for which Championship sides will claim the automatic promotion places in the 2017/18 season.
The Spanish coach guided Boro to promotion from the Championship in 2015/16 but was given the boot halfway through the subsequent Premier League campaign as the Teesside outfit went on to suffer relegation from England's top flight.
However, Karanka has revealed, as reported by the Daily Star, he maintains high hopes for his former side, tipping his successor, Gary Monk, to guide them to promotion back to the Premier League in the coming season.
He said: “It is a very open Championship this season, but my old Teesside giants look very impressive already.
“They have been battling off bids to keep key players like Ben Gibson, who will have learnt lots from last year in the Premier League and internationally."
Karanka went on to praise the club chairman, Steve Gibson, whose vision and optimisim have helped to put Middlesbrough in a healthy position in the run up to the new season.
"Credit must go to Steve Gibson, who promised to "smash" the league this year after the disappointment of relegation. He has certainly backed that up with the money new boss Garry Monk has had to spend on signings."
Aston Villa were also on the receiving end of praise from Karanka as he hailed the Villain's signing of John Terry on a free transfer from Premier League champions Chelsea as 'the signing of the season'.
In an interview with British newspapers the Spaniard also tipped Villa to return to the Premier League after being relegated in 2015/16.
He said: "John Terry is without doubt the signing of the Championship season and still has so much to give, both as a player and in the dressing room. And for that reason, along with Steve Bruce's skills as a manager, I think Villa will also go up automatically.”