Charlton Athletic v Middlesbrough: Aitor Karanka warns against another Rotherham

Middlesbrough skipper Grant Leadbitter (right) is set to return to the Boro starting XI
Middlesbrough skipper Grant Leadbitter (right) is set to return to the Boro starting XI

Aitor Karanka has warned Middlesbrough that they cannot afford for lightning to strike twice.

Boro head to Charlton Athletic tomorrow for a critical battle at both ends of the Sky Bet Championship (kick-off 3.30pm).

I hope we have learned from Tuesday because this is another team fighting for their lives

AITOR KARANKA

Karanka’s side began the weekend programme in second with the Addicks in grave relegation trouble in second bottom.

It could get a lot worse for both clubs if other results this afternoon go against them.

Boro could find themselves down to third should Hull beat MK Dons and Charlton may fall to the bottom on goal difference should Bolton defeat Preston in the Lancashire derby.

Tomorrow’s match at the Valley should be a straight-forward one for Boro, who are 21 places and 38 points better off than the Londoners.

However, Boro came a cropper last Tuesday against relegation-threatened opposition after losing 1-0 at Rotherham United.

And Karanka says Boro must bounce back for this Sky TV showdown.

“I hope we have learned from Tuesday because this is another team fighting for their lives,” said Karanka.

“This will be a similar game.”

And Karanka has warned against thinking that the home players will be distracted by off-the-field issues.

There is great unrest among the Valley faithful against owner Roland Duchâtelet and Katrien Meire, the chief executive, while assistant head coach Jose Jeunechamps left the club this week to take a job in Belgium.

But Karanka said: “I think when a player goes onto the pitch they forget about the other things.

“They know that what is happening around them is secondary, so they will be fighting for themselves.

“They will want to be playing in the Championship next season.

“So for that reason, they will be giving their best and we must give our best as well.”

Indeed, Karanka insists the desire for points should be just as great for his players, who are aiming to go up, as the opposition who are trying to stay in the division.

“Rotherham showed last week that they wanted it more than us,” said the Spaniard. “When you are playing sometimes to survive that gives you another power, extra energy.

“But for us, our aim is to play in the Premier League and we have to show the same desire [to achieve that].”

Karanka is likely to restore skipper Grant Leadbitter to the starting XI after the midfielder recovered from a hamstring strain.

“Grant is important,” he said in an interview with BBC Tees, “Whether he is on the bench or on the pitch.

“He is our captain and he is important for the rest of the players.

“I am really pleased to have him ready to play.”