Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka must decide if Kike keeps out David Nugent

Middlesbrough striker Kike
Middlesbrough striker Kike

Aitor Karanka is thrilled to have Kike back in the goals and admits he has given him food for thought ahead of Monday’s clash with Sheffield Wednesday.

The Spanish forward set Boro on their way to their fifth win in six games when he scored the opener at Brighton last Saturday.

It was Kike’s first goal since scoring in the August draw at Derby County and Karanka hopes there is more to come.

The 26-year-old led the line superbly at the Amex Stadium in the absence of the side’s leading league scorer, David Nugent, who was red-carded late in the 0-0 draw with Birmingham City.

“Strikers need confidence and to get confidence they must score goals,” said Karanka.

“Forwards like Kike live for goals and now he is scoring that can only be good for the team.

“Everyone wanted to kill Kike after Reading but without David he had his chance at Brighton.

“He has taken his chance.”

Nugent serves the final match of his three-game ban this afternoon at Blackburn Rovers though he could return against Sheffield Wednesday on Monday evening (kick-off 5.15pm).

The summer signing from Leicester City has been instrumental in Boro’s rise to the summit of the Sky Bet Championship.

But Karanka says Nugent’s red mist has opened an opportunity for Kike.

“Of course,” he said. “I have to think abut selecting the best XI and now Kike has taken his chance, David might have to wait.”

Karanka has the happy knack of beiong able to rotate his squad and still get the desired results as he proved with different line-ups from Birmingham to Burnley to Brighton.

Boro will hope to see off another ‘B’ today, resurgent Blackburn, before tackling the Owls on Monday.

And Karanka is delighted by the strength of his Boro squad.

“For me, the key has being able to change the team,” said the Spaniard in an interview with BBC Tees.

“When you have the squad I have, you can change three or four players to beat Burnley and then change three or four again and beat Brighton.

“Brighton had played two demanding games against QPR and Derby and I could sense in the first minutes they were tired.

“But the players I had changed were fresh and we had a good intensity in the game.”