Emanuel Pogatetz may not be familiar with Tees-Wear derbies but the Austria international knows enough to warn his Middlesbrough team-mates that the visit of Sunderland on Sunday is no foregone conclusion.

Summer signing Pogatetz will sample his first North-East clash when Boro entertain the Black Cats at the Riverside Stadium on Sunday.

While the Teessiders are favourites to overcome their newly-promoted neighbours, who have yet to win in six Premiership attempts this season, Pogatetz remains wary.

Having played in Grazer and Moscow derbies for AK and Spartak respectively, Pogatetz knows form counts for little in local showdowns.

"I think there is a special rivalry in derby games," said Pogatetz.

"When I've played in Graz and Moscow you could never say which team would win. There are no favourites in derbies.

"Sunderland have to win so I think it will be a very difficult game."

Less than two months after signing for the Teessiders in a £1.8m deal from Bayer Leverkusen, Pogatetz was finally cleared to make his Boro debut in last month's 3-0 home defeat to Charlton, after an initial six-month ban imposed by the Russian FA was reduced.

Pogatetz was charged with 'violent intent' after breaking an opponent's leg in his final game on-loan for Spartak Moscow in June.

But, after exhaustive efforts to have the suspension cut - Pogatetz returned to Russia to offer a personal apology to Yaroslav Khartinsky for the tackle - the 22-year-old is now ready to make the headlines for all the right reasons.

Despite making a losing start to his Boro career, Pogatetz played the last 25 minutes of the 2-1 win over Arsenal at the Riverside Stadium.

"I've really enjoyed the games I've played, especially against Arsenal," said Pogatetz.

"There was a superb atmosphere in the stadium. We were under pressure against Arsenal because we had just lost 3-0 to Charlton.

"Against Arsenal we showed what we can do if we have a good day and it was a good day."

Already, after just three appearances, Pogatetz has sampled enough Premiership life to conclude that his decision to move to Boro was the right one.

"I've played all over Europe but nothing compares with the Premiership," said Pogatetz. "The intensity of the game here is special and I think it is good to watch for the fans too."

With the recent additions of Fabio Rochemback and Abel Xavier, Pogatetz believes Boro can only improve on their start to the season.

"The new players need time to settle in and I think we will only get better and better," said Pogatetz. "We are not 100 per cent yet, but we will get there soon.

"We had some problems at the beginning with some positions but with the arrivals of (Abel) Xavier and Fabio (Rochemback) I think we will do better in the future. We've been doing well and I hope that we can win it."

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