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Season preview: Middlesbrough

Season preview: Middlesbrough
© PA Photos
Sports Mole looks ahead to Middlesbrough's chances in the upcoming 2013-14 campaign.

With the Championship season beginning this weekend, Sports Mole casts its eye over Middlesbrough's summer and their prospects for the 2013-14 campaign.

In:

Jozsef Varga (From Debrecen, Loan), Dean Whitehead (From Stoke City, Free)

Out:

Julio Arca (Released), Nicky Baker (Released), Andre Bikey (Released), Curtis Edwards (Released), Stephen McManus (Released), Kyle Oliver (Released), Paul Weldon (Released), Scott McDonald (To Millwall, Free)

Last Season: 16th

Manager: Tony Mowbray

Three key players:


Jason Steele on March 20, 2012© PA Photos
Jason Steele - They say that the best award that you can win in football is one that has been voted for by your teammates. That is the accolade that Steele claimed last season, such was the impression that he made between the posts for Middlesbrough. The 22-year-old put in man of the match performances against the likes of Ipswich Town and Watford, as well as saving a penalty at a crucial stage of the match against Blackpool. While Mowbray may have other areas of the pitch to address, he will have few sleepless nights over his goalkeeper.


Middlesbrough's Grant Leadbitter has a shot on goal against Swansea City on December 12, 2012© PA Photos
Grant Leadbitter - You can normally tell a lot about a player's ability by the clubs that show an interest in his services. Leadbitter was reportedly the subject of a bid from Nottingham Forest earlier this summer. With the Tricky Trees harbouring ambitions of promotion to the Premier League, it highlights just how valuable the 27-year-old is to Boro. The recent addition of Dean Whitehead potentially suggested that he had been recruited to replace Leadbitter, but Mowbray will no doubt be keen to keep hold of the midfielder.


Middlesbrough's Marvin Emnes© PA Photos
Marvin Emnes - During the 2011-12 campaign, the Dutch striker scored 18 goals in all competitions, but he failed to kick on from that return last season. Part of that is down to injuries, but he would still have been expected to score more than five goals from his 24 outings. Having got a full pre-season under his belt, his two-goal contribution during a recent friendly against Bordeaux would indicate that he is now back to full fitness. If the 25-year-old can continue with that form, he could help to lift Boro up towards the halfway mark and beyond.

First game: Leicester City (H), Complete fixture list

Sports Mole says: There was a real sense of underachievement around the Riverside Stadium in May as the club finished closer to the relegation zone than the playoffs. A handful of players have since been released as Mowbray cleared the decks, while only two have been brought in so far. It means that while the starting lineup may be a strong one on paper, there is not much quality or even quantity to back that up. It's a big season for Mowbray as well, because if results from last year don't improve, then it would not be a surprise if he was told to clear his desk at some point.

Predicted finish: 13th

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Middlesbrough's Grant Leadbitter celebrates scoring on November 30, 2012
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