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Championship Preview: Welcome back, Boro!

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Leeds United will take on a familiar foe this year that spent only one year in the Premier League

Leeds United v Middlesbrough   - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

In the next few weeks Through It All Together will be previewing Leeds United’s upcoming opponents in the 2017-18 Championship. We’ll preview the six “newcomers” first, the three teams relegated from the Premier League and the three teams promoted from League One. After that, we’ll preview the rest of the teams and also preview the schedule once the fixtures are released.

After spending a single year in the Premier League last season, Middlesbrough are back in the Championship, without their manager and director of football and likely without some of their best players.

Boro started out well in the Premier League but were unable to score enough goals to stay in the division, famously scoring fewer goals than Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur.

The exodus has already started at the Riverside Stadium, with American keeper Brad Guzan announcing in January that he was leaving for MLS and Atlanta United. Ex-Barcelona keeper Victor Valdes also announced that he was leaving as well, leaving the team in need of a first-team keeper. The rumor mill also has a number of players leaving, most notably Ben Gibson. Gibson is the nephew of the chairman of Middlesbrough, Steve Gibson, but it still appears that at least four Premier League teams are interested in his services, with Chelsea, Liverpool, West Bromwich Albion, and Leicester City linked with the central defender. Spanish forward Alvaro Negredo, a loanee from La Liga side Valencia, has also announced his departure from the club.

Middlesbrough’s record last year was not very good, as would be expected from a team that was relegated from the Premier League. They won only five games, the lowest number in the division, drew 13 games, and lost 20 games. In 38 games, the team only scored 27 goals, but allowed only 53 goals for a goal difference of -26. By comparison, Hull City and Sunderland, who were relegated with Boro, had goal differences of -43 and -40 respectively.

When Middlesbrough was last in the Championship, they had an impressive record, getting 89 points with 26 wins, 11 draws, and nine losses. Leeds lost at Boro 3-0 and drew 0-0 at home against them.

With Leeds United just missing out on the playoffs and the upper management at Boro in a state of disarray, this looks to be a team that could be vulnerable to a fall and Leeds could have a chance to take at least three, if not more, points from them. Teams that are relegated don’t usually bounce right back up to the Premier League, and teams that only spent a year in the top division aren’t usually able to retain their key players. While Boro sacked Aitor Karanka, who has been linked with the vacancy at Leeds, and their director of football, Victor Orta, who is now the director at Leeds, they don’t appear to have settled on any replacements. Chairman Steve Gibson promised “changes” at the club after their relegation was confirmed, but change for the sake of change isn’t necessarily a good thing.

After all, the defense was solid all season for Boro, but a lack of a goal-scoring threat up front doomed them, despite Karanka making moves to address the forward position. Making a number of changes won’t necessarily improve them now, because the team that went to the playoffs in 2014-15 and was automatically promoted in 2015-16 wasn’t able to stay up, and the time to make adjustments was last summer, not after the fact. While Boro fans may be looking forward to winning a few games, the team will find the division more difficult than they remember, especially if Ben Gibson departs.