AITOR Karanka has numerous selection dilemmas to find the winning combination for tomorrow’s visit to Birmingham City (kick-off 3pm).
The Middlesbrough boss is looking to recover from Wednesday night’s 2-1 defeat at Derby and also for his first away win since taking over the Riverside helm.
Who Karanka will grant a place to in the squad’s 18 is a matter of deliberation for he is replete with first team players, with him admitting that it is “my most difficult work to choose who will be in the 18 and then the 11”.
The Spaniard, though, is not complaining with the burden of such issues: “But that is my job and I am very happy to have these problems,” he told BBC Tees.
“I get to my office and see that I have 26 players ready to play and this is a decision for me but I’m happy to have this situation.
“I need to choose the best players, the best players who will be in the best conditions.
“Dean (Whitehead) played a very, very good game (against Derby).
“He’s a veteran player and he did very, very well. He has put everything on the pitch.
“Grant (Leadbitter) is also an important player for us.
Karanka’s choice has been heightened with positive news from the treatment table despite fears over George Friend who picked up a knock in midweek.
“George’s injury is less than we thought,” he revealed.
“We are happy because George because is an important player for us. He puts everything on the pitch.
“Lukas Jutkiewicz is available, he trained yesterday and today he will be better and can travel with the team.”
The former Real Madrid assistant manager has quickly fathomed just how difficult the Championship is.
It is why he sought to insist that his work on the Teesside should be viewed as a long-term project, whether or not Boro achieve their season goal of finishing in the play-off berths.
“This is long project and the club, the supporters and everybody needs to be together and improving together,” he went on.
“It is a close league, you can win every game and you can lose every game.
“Sometimes this is a good thing because you are a long distance from the play-offs and you win three games in a row and you’re in that position
“It is a difficult game tomorrow because other teams are very, very close.
I know Nicola Zigic who was playing in the Spanish league before and he is a good player.”