Cristhian Stuani says Boro are ready for a pivotal period in the Premier League season, starting with Saturday's trip to Stoke City

The sides last met on the opening day of the season, and Stuani admits it's a different picture this time around. 

"It was a very emotional game, the first game of the season after such a long time away from the Premier League," he said. "Unfortunately, we couldn't get the three points after their late free-kick.

"Now Stoke are a mid-table side and you can say they are secure in the Premier League for next season at this point. 

"It won't be easy, particularly playing away. Stoke are very strong team and are doing well at home.

"But as a team we're approaching every game in the same way. The most important thing is to focus on ourselves and start winning now, to move away from the danger zone."

The Uruguayan international saw perhaps Boro's best opportunities in front of goal in last Saturday's defeat to Crystal Palace, and says the Teessiders must show a ruthless streak to earn more points. 

"As everybody knows, we are a very organised team and defensively we are very strong," he said.

"The chances we do create, we need to be more precise and clinical in finishing. 

"We are still training all round, on every aspect of the game. If we just focus on the offensive stuff, it won't work - teams in this league have quality so you cannot leave yourself exposed. 

"Everybody knows their roles, so we have to keep working hard, go the extra mile and get better week by week."

Stuani - second only to Alvaro Negredo in Boro's scoring charts this season - has hit some vital goals for Aitor Karanka's side, including the strike that sealed promotion last May and a double in August's Wear-Tees derby. That's a habit he hopes to continue in this season's run-in.

"I can say I'm very proud and honoured to score some crucial goals in important moments for the club," he said.

"Hopefully, if I continue working hard and getting those chances, I'll score some more important goals so the supporters and the whole team can benefit, and we can achieve our aim to stay in the Premier League."