Aitor Karanka: Middlesbrough squad ‘raring to go’ against Brentford

Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka

Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka

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MIDDLESBROUGH boss Aitor Karanka insists his Boro squad are ‘raring to go’ ahead of Friday’s Championship play-off semi-final at Brentford.

Boro finished fourth – the club’s highest position since relegation in 2009 - and now face the lottery of the play-offs as they bid to return to the Premier League next season.

They take on Mark Warburton’s Brentford at Griffin Park in the first leg and Karanka is looking to take a positive result back to the Riverside.

And the Spaniard has called on his players to show the same spirit they recently displayed away at Fulham in the league.

Despite losing at Craven Cottage, Boro battled back from 3-1 down to level the score with 10 men, albeit Fulham caught Karanka’s side on the break and scored a late winner.

Karanka said: “We have one game on Friday and we are full of energy because we showed at Fulham with 10 players against 11 that we were better than them.

“Even with 10 players we worked very well, so now we have one week to prepare the game in the best way, to try and beat Brentford and come back here with a result.”

Boro fell just short of an automatic promotion slot in the Championship, pipped to the post by Watford and Bournemouth, who will be playing Premier League football next season.

The Middlesbrough chief is now looking for his side to join them after an impressive campaign and one which achieved his pre-season aims.

“I arrived here 17 months ago and my objective was to play the play-offs and now we’ve achieved that and it’s amazing for me,” said Karanka.

“I’m learning every single day in this club, league and country.

“It’s amazing for me and I have to keep learning in the same way,” added Karanka, who was speaking to the club’s website.

Boro finished the campaign with a disappointing draw at home to Brighton & Hove Albion in front of 33,000 fans.

But defender Ben Gibson says all that matters now, is the club’s Friday night trip to Brentford.

The 22-year-old said: “We would’ve liked to end on a win, but we’re looking forward to a massive game.

“You play football for these massive occasions and that’s what this is.

“Since we were relegated, this club has struggled to get in the play-offs.

“Now that we’re in it we’re going to enjoy it and make sure we leave our mark on it.

“That’s what we’ve played all season for and what we play our careers for and it’s up to us to make it count now.”