AFTER being handed a trip to Barnsley on the opening weekend of the Championship season, Middlesbrough manager Tony Mowbray hopes to confirm his second signing of the summer.
Having acquired Grant Leadbitter from Ipswich already, Boro are putting the finishing touches to a deal for Walsall's South American winger Emmanuel Ledesma.
Middlesbrough have been tracking Ledesma for a number of months but, as revealed in The Northern Echo last week, significant progress has been made and the 24-year-old should be on board soon.
Then Mowbray will step up his interest in other targets, knowing there are a number of areas in his squad which still needs strengthening and contractual issues sorting out with a number of those due to become free agents.
And with his players due to start pre-season training on July 5, he is keen to have the majority of his squad on board in good time so they can start to plan ahead for the new season.
A week after facing Bury in the newly-named Capital One Cup on August 11, Mowbray will be able to completely focus on the trip to Oakwell the following week.
Promotion is the aim this season for Middlesbrough. Mowbray said: "I'm not too unhappy to be playing away on the first day of the season. It's always a one-off game in a way, almost like a cup tie, following all the weeks of preparation.
"The first game of the season is often a tight one, as we saw against Portsmouth last year, and then we face games every three days as the season gets running.
"Following our trip to Barnsley, we face two tough home games with Burnley and Crystal Palace and, now that the fixture list is out, we can begin our preparations."
After those Leadbitter will face his - and Mowbray's - former club Ipswich on September 15 and a home date with relegated Blackburn Rovers on Boxing Day.
There is a trip to Derby County on New Year's Day, while Leeds United head to the Riverside Stadium on January 26. Middlesbrough finish the campaign on May 4 with a trip to Sheffield Wednesday.
But Mowbray is keen not to forget about the cup date with Bury first. He said: "They are all tough games, as we saw last season when we won more matches away than we did at home.
"Before our league fixtures get underway, we face a trip to Bury in the first round of the Capital One Cup on August 11. That's an interesting tie because we have not played them that often in the past.
"Bury finished mid-table in League One last season and we will give them every respect in what should be a very challenging fixture."