AITOR Karanka is confident Middlesbrough will bounce back in customary style from their mid-week set-back at Wolves when they face Watford tomorrow.
Sky Bet Championship’s match of the day at the Riverside is a crucial one for Boro – a home victory would see Karanka’s side leapfrog the Hornets and go second (kick-off 3pm).
Boro had been moving along nicely until Tuesday night’s disappointing 2-0 defeat at Wolves where their seven-match unbeaten run came to a halt.
Karanka said: “Every time this season we’ve had a bad performance or result the following game has been a good one.
“We’ve always had a good reaction. I am confident my team is strong.”
Three of Boro’s next four games are at the Riverside, highlighting the importance of turning their stadium into a fortress.
Karanka knows that too, though is reluctant to mention it.
“I don’t want to say how important it is to win the home games because I said the same thing before the Sheffield Wednesday and Reading ames and we lost!” he smiled.
“I’m not going to repeat that, what is important to us is that we add points.
“This is a big test for us.”
Karanka admits he does look at the league table but he stressed it is how the table looks in May that matters.
The Spaniard is aware Boro were top at New Year 2013 under previous boss Tony Mowbray, only for the form to fall to pieces.
“I won’t lie and say that I don’t look at the table,” he explained.
“I see the table and I’m happy to see our team in the position we are in.
“But what we have to think about is being in this position at the end of the season.
“I read last Saturday that two years ago the team was at the top of the table and the second part of the league was no good.
“I have to learn every single day that I need to put the team in this position at the end of the season.”
Karanka wants his players to learn the lessons of Tuesday’s lost at Molineux, where they players were not at the races.
“We lost a game to things we knew before the game and that can’t happen again,” he told BBC Tees. “We know everything about the opposition so we have to be at our 100 per cent [best].
“Since I have been here, we make the same mistake in thinking that we are better than we actually are.
“We can beat every single team but we can also lose to every single team.”
A below-par performance tomorrow will be exposed by Watford who are not second in the league by accident.
Despite a rapid turnover in managers - three already in 2014 – the Hornets are flying.
“All the managers have done a very good job,” said the Spaniard.
“They have a strong squad with 15 good players.”
Captain Grant Leadbitter is suspended but Boro have their fingers crossed that Adam Clayton is passed fit to play.
The ex-Huddersfield Town star took a blow to the head in the 2-1 win at Brighton and had to sit out the defeat at Wolves.
“When you have had a head problem, you have to be careful, “ he said. “We’ll leaver it with the doctor and the player and if he can play it will be very good news.”
– ROY KELLY