George Friend could return to Middlesbrough’s starting line-up for the vital Premier League clash with fellow strugglers Swansea.

Middlesbrough's George Friend
Middlesbrough's George Friend
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George Friend could return to Middlesbrough’s starting line-up for today’s vital Premier League clash with fellow strugglers Swansea (KO 3pm).

Friend has missed Boro’s last five games since suffering a knee injury last month but having trained through the week, he is lined up to replace Fabio at left-back.

It is going to be a tough game but once again we just have to focus on ourselves

Aitor Karanka

Gaston Ramirez faces a late test on the foot injury that has ruled him out for the last two games but striker Cristhian Stuani is still definitely ruled out with an infected foot.

Meanwhile, boss Aitor Karanka has told his players to shrug off the memory of their midweek mauling by Liverpool and concentrate on claiming three priceless points against relegation rivals Swansea.

Boro were swept aside in a stunning second-half display by Jurgen Klopp’s men on Wednesday but Karanka knows his side’s fate is more likely to be sealed in games such as their next two fixtures against the Swans and then Burnley on Boxing Day.

Having previously taken points against Arsenal and Manchester City this season, Karanka felt Wednesday was the first time his players have been outclassed in this campaign - but despite dropping within three points of the bottom three he insists there is no reason to panic.

Karanka said: “Apart from 15 minutes against Everton and the first half against Tottenham we had competed against every single team so it was tough for us, but we have to forget that second half and look at the way we are going.

“I don’t want to put on the pressure because we are in December and we are playing well, we are playing with consistency and creating chances. I would like us to play the same way as we did against Hull, especially because we are at home.”

Nevertheless, Karanka will know that failure to beat the Swans will pile on the pressure ahead of the crucial Christmas programme, with recent games against Liverpool and Southampton highlighting their relative inability to fashion clear-cut opportunities in front of goal.

In contrast, Swansea head into the game having scored nine and conceded 12 in their last four matches alone and bolstered by the belated form of Fernando Llorente, who scored twice against both Crystal Palace and Sunderland and with whom Karanka is well acquainted.

The pair shared a season at Athletic Bilbao in 2005 and Karanka said: “I know Fernando very well - I played with him and I have a good relationship with him.

“But behind him they have players like (Gylfi) Sigurdsson and Jefferson Montero and two or three others I know, so it is going to be a tough game but once again we just have to focus on ourselves.”

Boro squad: Valdes, Guzan, Chambers, Friend, Fabio, Barragan, Nsue, Gibson, Espinosa, De Roon, Clayton, Forshaw, Downing, Ramirez, Fischer, De Sart, Traore, Negredo, Nugent, Rhodes, Leadbitter, Ayala