Sunderland were unfortunate to lose 2-1 at Manchester City in their league opener last weekend, while Middlesbrough, on their return to the top flight, picked up a point in a 1-1 draw at home to Stoke City.
It came as somewhat of a shock when England poached Sam Allardyce from Sunderland, which left the Black Cats without a manager approaching the new season. David Moyes was offered a route back into English football, however, and the Scot so nearly made an impressive start away to Man City in their Premier League opener last weekend.
Sunderland were second best for long spells of their clash at the Etihad, but Jermain Defoe cancelled out a Sergio Aguero penalty in the 71st minute to leave the score at 1-1. It did appear that Moyes would take a point from his first game in charge, but new signing Paddy McNair, formerly of Manchester United, scored a late own goal to hand Man City all the points.
Sunderland supporters have had to get used to relegation battles in the last few seasons and the club only just survived once again last season, ending the campaign in 17th position.
Money has been spent this summer though, with Papy Djilobodji, McNair, Donald Love and Adnan Januzaj (loan) all arriving. Moyes has a tough task at the Stadium of Light this season, but he is expected to bring in more new players before the end of the transfer window.
In terms of what is ahead for Sunderland, the Black Cats will host Shrewsbury Town in the League Cup on Wednesday night, before travelling to Southampton in the Premier League next weekend. September then brings matches against Everton, Tottenham Hotspur and Crystal Palace and you just get the feeling that the team need to make a positive start to the campaign, especially with the scrutiny that is bound to surround Moyes if things start to go downhill.
Sunderland actually scored 48 times in the Premier League last season, which was the best record in the bottom eight. Much of that was down to the brilliance of Defoe, however, who has scored six times in his last 10 Premier League appearances. Indeed, one more goal for the Englishman would see him become 10th in the all-time Premier League scoring list (145).
Recent form: L
Middlesbrough are back in the Premier League for the first time since the 2008-09 season, when they were relegated in 19th position. Since then, they have finished 11th, 12th, seventh, 16th, 12th and fourth in the Championship, before gaining promotion last season after finishing second behind the champions Burnley.
It has been a busy summer at the Riverside in terms of signings, with Marten de Roon, Viktor Fischer, Antonio Barragan, Victor Valdes, Gaston Ramirez, Bernardo Espinosa and Alvaro Negredo (loan) all arriving. It is a good time to be a Boro supporter as the club seems to be moving in the right direction after a difficult last seven or eight years.
New signing Negredo sent Boro into a 1-0 lead in their Premier League opener against Stoke last weekend, but a Xherdan Shaqiri free kick in the second period saw the points shared in a 1-1 draw. It was an encouraging start for Karanka, but he will be keen to secure that first Premier League victory before the season really gathers pace.
In terms of what is ahead for Middlesbrough, they will travel to Fulham in the League Cup on Wednesday night, before making the trip to West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League next weekend. September then brings clashes with Crystal Palace, Everton and Tottenham in what will be a good test of the team's credentials for the 2016-17 campaign.
How Middlesbrough perform this season could well depend on Karanka and his ability to work under pressure. A close acquaintance of Jose Mourinho, whom he worked under during a stint at Real Madrid, the 42-year-old missed his side's Championship meeting with Charlton Athletic last season after an rumoured falling-out with his backroom staff and players.
Boro had the best defensive record in the Championship last season, only conceding 31 times, and that included a club-record run of nine games without shipping a goal. It will be tougher in the Premier League though and this weekend should be a strong indicator of where they stand in the top flight.
Recent form: D
Januzaj made his Sunderland debut off the bench last weekend, but the Manchester United attacker is expected to be given a starting role as Moyes adopts an attacking formation for his first home match.
Djilobodji and Wahbi Khazri are also expected to feature from the start, while Lamine Kone, despite strong speculation linking the centre-back with Everton, should continue in the middle of the defence.
As for Middlesbrough, head coach Karanka has no injury concerns from the draw with Stoke last weekend.
Fischer and Christian Stuani are also attacking options for the visitors, but Karanka is expected to resist the temptation to make many changes as he keeps with his 4-2-3-1 shape from the opener at the Riverside.
Sunderland possible starting lineup:
Mannone; Love, Kone, O'Shea, Djilobodji; Januzaj, Rodwell, Khazri, Watmore; Defoe, Borini
Middlesbrough possible starting lineup:
Valdes; Nsue, Barragan, Gibson, Friend; De Roon, Clayton; Downing, Ramirez, Adomah; Negredo
Head To Head
In total, Sunderland and Middlesbrough have met on 142 occasions in all competitions and it is Sunderland that lead the head-to-head 61 victories to Middlesbrough's 44.
It is a rivalry that dates back to November 1887, when the two teams played out a 2-2 draw in the FA Cup. Their first ever league match then occurred in League Division One in December 1902, with Sunderland recording a 1-0 victory at the home of their rivals.
Their last meeting came in the League Cup in October 2012, when Middlesbrough recorded a 1-0 victory at the Stadium of Light. They have not actually met in the Premier League since January 2009, when the points were shared in a 1-1 draw at the Riverside. The last league clash between the pair in this stadium brought a 2-0 Sunderland victory in September 2008.
We say: Sunderland 1-1 Middlesbrough
Neither manager will want to lose and that could play a big role in what type of football match occurs. Both teams played pretty well in their league openers last weekend and we are struggling to separate the North-East rivals here. Score draw.