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PLAY-OFF FINAL: OPPOSITION VIEW

22 May 2015

Essential reading on our Wembley opponents

MIDDLESBROUGH

Nickname: The Boro
Manager: Aitor Karanka
2014-15: 4th
Ground: Riverside Stadium
Fastest road route from Carrow Road: 227 miles (4 hours 10 minutes)

THE LOWDOWN
Middlesbrough’s season has been built on the foundation of the strongest defence in the Sky Bet Championship.

Aitor Karanka’s men conceded just 37 goals in their 46 regular league matches, and combined that tight backline with a goalscoring touch in their play-off semi-final, seeing off Brentford 5-1 on aggregate.

They enter the final against the Canaries having beaten them in both meetings this season: the Teessiders backed up their 4-0 win at the Riverside Stadium in November with a narrow 1-0 triumph in Norfolk just last month.


In 2009, their 11-year stay in the Premier League was ended by relegation.

They have triumphed in the second tier of English football by winning the title four times, while they also boast a League Cup trophy (2004).

Their current squad contains one former Norwich City player in Daniel Ayala (2011-14), who made ten appearances during his spell at Carrow Road.
 



THE BOSS

A Champions League winner as a player, Aitor Karanka assumed his first senior managerial post when he took over as Middlesbrough boss in November 2013.

The Spaniard was previously assistant to Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid, where he triumphed in Europe’s elite club competition as a central defender.

Karanka replaced Tony Mowbray in the hotseat on Teeside and guided them to a 12th-place finish by the end of the 2013-14 campaign.


Born in Vitoria, he played for Athletic Bilbao before transferring to the Bernabeu in 1997, where he would go on to make 93 appearances.

He returned to Bilbao before wrapping up his career with Colorado Rapids in MLS. The 41-year-old earned a solitary cap for Spain’s national team.

Just before he took the job at Middlesbrough, Mourinho was glowing in his praise of Karanka, saying: “I think whatever club gets him, in England or in another country, will be a lucky club.”

THE SQUAD
Goalkeepers: Connor Ripley, Dimitrios Konstantopoulos, Tomas Mejias.

Defenders: Abella Damia, George Friend, Daniel Ayala, Ben Gibson, Adam Reach, Kenneth Omeruo, Rhys Williams, Andre Bennett, David Atkinson, Mark Kitching, Jonathan Woodgate, Adam Jackson.

Midfielders: Ryan Fredericks, Grant Leadbitter (c), Adam Clayton, Dean Whitehead, Mustapha Carayol, Albert Adomah, Bryn Morris, Ryan Brobbel, Adam Forshaw.

Forwards: Enrique Garcia, Lee Tomlin, Luke Williams, Jelle Vossen, Patrick Bamford, Emilio Nsue, Bradley Fewster, Yanic Wildschut.

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