Karanka faces big keeper quandary for Sheffield Wednesday v Middlesbrough

Boro boss Aitor Karanka

Boro boss Aitor Karanka

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WHOEVER is awarded the Middlesbrough goalkeeping jersey against Sheffield Wednesday has to work to retain it.

Aitor Karanka, the Boro boss who has watched his side failed to score in each of their last matches, has the head-scratching decision of who to select between the posts at Hillsborough (kick off 3pm).

The dilemma has been enforced by Shay Given’s return to Aston Villa and Jason Steele, loanee Tomas Mejias, Dimi Konstantopoulos, Connor Ripley and Jayson Leutwiler are all in the mix, fit-again Steele the man most likely to be preferred.

Karanka says that he prefers “to have this difficult decision” to make but his choice has been made harder by the five shotstoppers excelling in training this week.

The requirement not to concede against the Owls, therefore, is not the chosen keeper’s only concern – he must deter his rivals from taking his place.

“It’s better to have five keepers ready to play and I have to choose one to play for the team and I don’t know at the moment,” the Spaniard informed BBC Tees.

“It’s a tough choice because all five are training very well.

“The keeper is a difficult decision and I need to think 100 per cent about this.

“The keeper who will play will have our confidence but he needs to play well.

“It is the same – if (an outfield) player makes a mistake he won’t play and the keeper is the same.”

An additional pressing matter is the subject of goals, or rather a lack of them.

The Riverside-outfit’s barren run has prompted calls for Karanka to alter his tactics, but he does not subscribe to those cries.

“We played against Watford in the last 15 minutes with three or four strikers,” came his defence.

“We can play with Danny (Graham), Curtis (Main), Kei (Kamara), whoever, and we haven’t scored.

“Sometimes we can finish the games with three strikers through my substitutions.

“I’m always thinking of how we can win games.

“The goals will arrive and we need to keep working and believing in our way.”

Aside from Monday night’s FA Cup exit to Charlton, Wednesday have flourished under the guidance of Stuart Gray who has elevated them from the trapdoor to 15th.

Yet Boro have already beaten the league’s best this season, instilling optimism into Karanka.

“We are working in the same way as we were one month ago when we beat Burnley and Reading,” he went on.

“I hope [tomorrow] we score that goal.

“It will be a difficult game, they are a team who are in the same position as us.

“We need to play as we did the last game (against Leeds) but score.

“I think if we play in that way we will win games.”

Mustapha Carayol should be fit for selection and is likely to be included in the starting XI, while Luke Williams is set for a place on the bench following his return to Boro from Pools.