The latest installment in our series of team previews sees the spotlight on Aitor Karanka's Teessiders
Home ground: Riverside Stadium
Head coach: Aitor Karanka
2014/15 league position: 4th
2014/15 top goalscorer: Patrick Bamford (19 in all competitons)
After losing to Norwich City in the Championship Play-Off Final last season, Middlesbrough signalled a big sign of their intent this year by parting with £5.5m to bring England international Stewart Downing back to the Riverside Stadium earlier this month.
One of the Premier League’s star performers during the first half of last season, the signing of Downing from West Ham United has provided a welcome boost to the Teessiders following the departure of leading goalscorer and Championship Player of the Year Patrick Bamford to parent club Chelsea.
Head Coach Aitor Karanka has also acted quickly to re-sign Czech Republic international Tomas Kalas on loan from Chelsea, with Alex Baptiste also making to move to the North East to round-up their summer business so far.
With Spaniard Kike and captain Grant Leadbitter their current main source of goals, Middlesbrough will be hoping the duo can replicate their start to the 2014/15 campaign this time around.
Then a summer signing from Real Murcia, Kike scored five goals in his first ten appearances for the club, including one on his debut in an opening day victory over Birmingham City, while Leadbitter netted seven over the same period as Boro endured an inconsistent start to the campaign.
However, the arrival of Bamford in late-August coincided with a run which saw Middlesbrough lose just twice more before Christmas, having tasted defeat three times in the opening month, as they quickly established themselves as promotion contenders.
Embarking on a ten-game unbeaten run as they headed into the New Year, which included a shock 2-0 victory over Manchester City in the FA Cup at the Etihad Stadium and a six-game winning streak, a late 2-1 victory over Blackpool in mid-February saw Boro storm to the top of the Championship table.
At the time rivalling Bournemouth, Derby County, Norwich City and Watford for top spot, inconsistencies began to creep in as the Teessiders won five but lost five of their next 11 matches.
While a three-game winning streak in mid-April, which included victories over fellow promotion hopefuls Norwich and Wolverhampton Wanderers, saw Boro once again rise to the top of the table, they saw their automatic promotion hopes capitulate on the penultimate weekend of the season.
Facing Fulham at Craven Cottage, the Teessiders recovered from 3-1 down with little over 20 minutes left Boro looked to have sealed a point when Kike netted an equaliser late on.
However, Karanka’s decision to send goalkeeper Dimi Konstantopoulos up for a late corner as Middlesbrough pushed for a winner proved catastrophic as Fulham countered to seal a dramatic victory - Ross McCormack rolling the ball into the empty net.
Consigned to the play-offs, Middlesbrough despatched Brentford with ease at the semi-final stage to clinch their place at Wembley courtesy of a 5-1 aggregate win.
However, early goals from Cameron Jerome and Nathan Redmond consigned them to a disappointing defeat – leaving them all the more determined to make amends and go one better this time around.
FIXTURES V BOLTON IN 2015/16
Saturday 15 August 2015 – 3pm kick-off at Riverside Stadium
Saturday 16 April 2016 – 3pm kick-off at Macron Stadium
RESULTS V BOLTON IN 2014/15
Bolton Wanderers 1-2 Middlesbrough – 19/08/2014 - (CLICK HERE for highlights)
Middlesbrough 1-0 Bolton Wanderers – 24/02/2015 - (CLICK HERE for highlights)