Aitor Karanka thinks a confident Middlesbrough striker Alvaro Negredo is set for a prolific season in the Premier League.
The former Manchester City man netted in newly promoted Boro’s 1-1 draw with Stoke City and is expected to lead their attack in Sunday’s derby against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.
Karanka believes self-belief has been crucial for Negredo and is optimistic about the season ahead with the ex-Spain international playing in attack.
“It was really important for Alvaro to score in his first game,” said Karanka.
“I have always said he is a top player and the only thing he needed was to recover his confidence.
“He feels confident on the pitch and with his team-mates so hopefully it continues.
“I knew a few players we brought here, their previous seasons weren’t their best, but we are confident in them.
“Some of them played better than I thought in the game against Stoke. I know how good they are and how good they have been in the past, and this is why I wanted to work with them.”
Two of Boro’s other signings received praise from Karanka ahead of the game with Sunderland, which the ex-Real Madrid assistant claims he will not be treating any differently.
He added: “I was very pleased with Antonio Barragan. He is going to be a very important player for us this season.
“Gaston Ramirez was one of our first targets this summer. He is an amazing player and I hope he is going to be better every game.
“Since I arrived here I know how big this [match] is for everybody, but this is my first derby. For us, it is just another three points. It will be a difficult game but we have to think about it like this. We will be the same in the build-up to the game.
“Everybody is fit to play except for Grant Leadbitter and Marten de Roon.”