Middlesbrough face former manager Steve McClaren and his Derby County side

Middlesbrough's head coach Aitor Karanka
Middlesbrough's head coach Aitor Karanka

SEIZING individual and collective opportunities is what pre-occupies Middlesbrough’s players and manager this weekend.

Boro host Steve McClaren’s Derby County (kick off 3pm) – the former boss’ first return to Teesside – with seven Championship games remaining.

Unlike Derby, who save for a calamity will be contesting the play-offs, Boro can be assured that they will be playing in the second tier against next term.

Although the final matches are effectively listed as dead-rubber, head coach Aitor Karanka does not agree and instead called on his side to finish strongly.

“It’s a very big game for us, it’s a good test for us again, and we are confident,” he told BBC Tees.

“It’s an opportunity for the players and me because to have two games in four days at the stadium and this is a good test to win the games.

“We played against them (in December, 2-1 loss) and competed well so we need to play like we did against Brighton and QPR.

“If we play in the same way we can win the game. The only thing we need to do is to win.”

Suspension to Dean Whitehead means he misses the Rams game against Tuesday’s game at home to Birmingham, offering the chance for another member of the Spaniard’s squad to play.

Whoever he selects will have the expectation of Karanka to justify their inclusion.

“I hope I can say after the game we didn’t miss Dean but he’s important,” he added.

“The player who plays in Deano’s position will have a chance to show me he can player and it’s a big chance for the player.”

Luke Williams is someone who has already pleased Karanka upon his selection.

He went on: “Luke impressed me the first game he played against Huddersfield.

“Others think that five minutes is not enough, they are wrong. He had five, six minutes and impressed me.

“He played very well against Brighton.”

Dimi Konstantopoulos will be hoping to keep the goalkeeping jersey although Tomas Meijas is back from injury and is pressing the Greek stopper.