KENNETH OMERUO will be confirmed as Aitor Karanka's first Middlesbrough signing this week, and the Boro boss is hoping the Chelsea youngster provides some of the defensive resilience that has been lacking in the first half of the season.
As revealed in Saturday's Northern Echo, Omeruo will sign a season-long loan from Stamford Bridge later this week, and should be available to make his Middlesbrough debut in Saturday's Championship game at Blackpool.
The 20-year-old Nigeria international, who can play at either centre-half or right-back, is one of the most highly-rated members of Chelsea's academy, but has agreed to move to the Riverside in the hope of securing a regular first-team place as he looks to force his way into his country's World Cup squad.
Omeruo came close to joining Middlesbrough in the summer, but former boss Tony Mowbray passed up the opportunity to sign him as he was looking for a more experienced centre-half.
Karanka, whose close personal relationship with Jose Mourinho has been key to resurrecting the deal, has adopted a different stance, and Omeruo is expected to link up with his new team-mates for the first time when they return to training tomorrow.
“I think the deal will happen,” said Karanka, in the wake of Boro's FA Cup third-round defeat to Hull City at the weekend. “I am expecting to be working with him on Tuesday, and he should be here for the rest of the season.
“He is a young player that I know well and Jose told me about him. He is a good defender and I am happy because he is coming here to help us and to add some things that are not here with the players we have at the moment. The club is working on it, and it should happen.”
Karanka has been linked with a number of potential loan deals involving Chelsea players, but at the moment, Omeruo is the only person set to leave Stamford Bridge for the North-East.
The future of Nathaniel Chalobah remains uncertain, and it may be that as the month progresses, further talks take place. Mourinho is determined to give the 19-year-old some senior experience, but at things stand, that will not be at the Riverside.
Karanka had hoped to sign striker Patrick Bamford, but the 20-year-old has opted to join Championship rivals Derby County instead.
“I know we have been linked with a lot of players, but it is not possible for all the Chelsea players who are going out on loan to come here,” said Karanka. “I heard last week that Michael Essien might be coming here. Maybe I will go to London to pick him up!
“No. The club is working on players, but we need to study them very carefully because we are happy with the squad we have now and will only sign people who will improve it.”
Boro's FA Cup interest came to a shuddering halt at the weekend as goals from Aaron McLean and Nick Proschwitz condemned them to a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Hull City.
Despite Steve Bruce resting a number of his senior players, the Tigers were comfortably on top throughout, with Boro producing an extremely subdued display.
“We thought it was a good chance,” admitted Karanka. “I said to my players at the beginning that if we had played like we know we can, we could definitely beat them. But it was not possible.
“We didn't play with the same intensity that we had shown against Burnley, especially in the first 30 minutes.
“I don't think there is a big gap (to the Premier League) though. There was not a big distance between us and the Hull City team. If Hull had played with all the players they could have picked, maybe that would have been different. But in this game, if we had played like we did against Burnley, we would have been capable of winning.”