We have the game against them three weeks ago in our mind. We started really well but then went down. I think we have learnt from that game.Aitor Karanka
On Saturday, the Spaniard returns to Teesside where he experienced a successful period in charge of Boro, but as Blues Boss, he expressed where his loyalties lie when he said: “Now I am blue, so I have to try and beat them.”
And Karanka is confident that his Blues team are fully prepared to take on one of the division’s in-form sides.
Speaking via Zoom from the Trillion Trophy Training Centre on Thursday afternoon, the Gaffer discussed his expectations for the clash in the North East.
Hoping to take elements of the performance against Manchester City into the game and assessing Boro, Karanka said: "If we approach the game in the right way, we can get a positive result. The second-half at Man City, the commitment and attitude was amazing, playing in a shape we hadn’t played in before. We need to show that same mentality at Middlesbrough.
“It will be a tough game. Middlesbrough are doing really well but I think we are going there at a good time. We have the game against them three weeks ago in our mind. We started really well but then went down. I think we have learnt from that game.”
The 47-year-old also reiterated how the mood remains positive in Blues’ camp as they search for their first victory in 2021, with the good atmosphere only boosted by a team meeting held during the week.
He told the media: “Since I have arrived here, I can’t complain as training every single week is amazing and it is a shame that the work every day here on the training ground is not shown on the pitch. It is something we are working to try and correct as soon as possible.
“[The meeting was] really positive. When I arrived here, I had heard the atmosphere was not good enough but after two months I felt that this wasn’t true. The players started the season really well and the players who arrived in the summer they settled in really well too.”
Karanka wrapped up his press duties by offering a fitness update of his squad.
He informed the press: "I don’t know yet on the availability of Alen [Halilović] and Gary [Gardner], they haven’t been training with us yet. They both have muscle injuries, so we do not want to take a risk on them. At this moment, I'm not sure if they will be ready for the weekend."