Expect another relegation battle, warns Sunderland boss Moyes

Britain Soccer Football - Sunderland v Middlesbrough - Premier League - Stadium of Light - 21/8/16 Sunderland manager David Moyes Action Images via Reuters / Lee Smith Livepic EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 45 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details. - RTX2MEJ2

(Reuters) - Sunderland manager David Moyes has warned fans to prepare for a relegation scrap for a fifth consecutive season after his side suffered their second successive defeat in the Premier League.

Cristhian Stuani’s double strike for Middlesbrough condemned Sunderland to a 2-1 defeat in the north-east derby on Moyes’ home debut on Sunday, leaving the serial strugglers in the bottom three after the first two games of the season.

Sunderland, who lost to Manchester City in their opening league game, finished fourth from bottom last season, just two points clear of relegation, and Moyes urged caution, saying it would take time to bring in stability.

“That’s where they’ve been every other year for the last four years, so why would it suddenly change?” Moyes told British media.

“I don’t think you can hide the facts. People will be flat because they are hoping that something is going to dramatically change -- it can’t dramatically change, it can’t.”

Moyes handed home debuts to five players in a youthful line-up against Middlesbrough and hinted there could be more additions in the close season.

“We have to get the balance right between young and experience and get the right values in the transfer market,” the former Manchester United and Everton boss added.

“This is the group of players at the moment, but we have two or three who will come back (from injury) and we will add to it and improve it.”

Sunderland next welcome Shrewsbury Town in the League Cup on Wednesday, before travelling to the St Mary’s Stadium to face Southampton on Saturday.

Reporting by Nivedita Shankar in Bengaluru; editing by Sudipto Ganguly