Middlesbrough v Stoke - Saturday 15:00
Middlesbrough return to the Premier League for the first time since 2008/09, after finishing runners-up in the Championship last term, and they begin their campaign against Stoke, who finished 9th for the third season in a row. Mark Hughes has continued his tenuous link with Barcelona, after signing Bojan and Afellay in recent times; he’s made the ‘Welsh Xavi’ Joe Allen his main summer signing.
Boro were excellent at home in the Championship last season as they had a W16-D5-L2 record and only conceded eight goals at the Riverside Stadium. The Potters were respectable on the road last term and while they’re better known for their strong home record they are often underestimated when playing away. They’ve also got a strong record against promoted teams; losing only four of their 18 games against Premier League newcomers since 2013/14, with a W3-D5-L1 record in the away matches.
Indeed, it’s certainly worth taking on Middlesbrough on here at around 2.2 as promoted teams have only won three of their 22 opening games since 2009/10. Xherdan Shaqiri scored one of the goals of the tournament at the Euros this summer and he’ll be keen to improve on his disappointing return last term. Given Boro’s solid defence this could be a low scoring game but the Swiss star could prove the difference and we’ll back him to open the scoring.