Based on pre-season and everything we’ve seen from Aitor Karanka, the in-vogue 4-2-3-1 formation is a certainty, and with only one striker on the books (Kei Kamara would rather be anywhere else) there isn’t really any other way to play. New signing Tomas Mejias looks likely to get the nod in goal, with last season’s hero Dimi Konstantopoulos on the bench, meaning the out-of-favour Jason Steele may yet find himself elsewhere come the end of the transfer window. The defence almost picks itself, except for that elusive right back the club is yet to sign; free transfer signing from Mallorca Emilio Nsue may fill in, though hopefully a specialist right back will be signed before the kick off. Daniel Ayala will probably deputise for Kenneth Omeruo if he doesn’t prove his fitness.
Centre midfield is likely to be Grant Leadbitter and the much maligned, though somewhat underrated Dean Whitehead who has featured prominently in pre-season. Should the bid for Huddersfield’s Adam Clayton turn into an actual transfer, he would be expected to start in place of Whitehead.
Muzzy Carayol’s injury means a left wing slot is up for grab. The highly-rated young winger Adam Reach has had an impressive pre-season and will more than likely get the nod, though £500k signing James Husband has played on the left on a couple of occasions pre-season. Albert Adomah, 12-goal top scorer last season, is an automatic choice on the right, leaving new frontman Kike Garcia to lead the line.
There are a few obvious gaps in the team, a right back, central midfielder and at least a couple of strikers are a must, but with the club being strongly linked with a few signings, these positions may yet be filled before the kick off. I may be viewing this with rose-tinted glasses, but this feels like a strong line-up, full of pace and still young enough to grow together. Middlesbrough are now sixth favourites for promotion, and at 6/1, may just be worth a cheeky fiver.