AITOR Karanka’s thoughts are all concentrated on the here and now – even if Middlesbrough’s play-off hopes appear inert.
The Spanish boss takes his re-energised side to Bournemouth tomorrow (kick off 3pm) with confidence high after recording a win against Ipswich and a draw with Nottingham Forest in the past seven days.
Although those results against loftier opposition indicate the team’s capabilities in competing with the league’s best, 11 points separate the Teessider’s from sixth place with as many games remaining.
Quizzed if he was building for next season already, the former Real Madrid coach responded: “I am always thinking about the next Saturday because I will make a big mistake if I think about next season when we have 11 games to play.
“I can’t for one minute be thinking about players or next season.
“The most important thing is to think about the game on Saturday and if one player thinks about next season they’re not thinking about the next game and I need players who think about the next game.”
His mindset also extended to the discussion of contract renewals.
The 40-year-old says that the players whose contracts expire in the summer must start to impress him now, highlighting that “they have 11 games and two months to show me.”
He told BBC Tees: “The players have every day to show me in the training sessions and on a Saturday if they want to stay here with me.
“That is the situation, it is my decision but they need to show me that they want to stay with me next season.”
The mandate facing the Boro players for the 650-mile round trip to the south coast to take on the Cherries is to emulate this week’s displays.
“We need to play like we have the last games,” he said.
“The second half against Forest was good and the goals have finally arrived.
“I was happy with the team the last seven, eight games.
“I didn’t like the team against Doncaster, Sheffield Wednesday and Watford but the rest I’ve liked them.”
Karanka has noted with admiration the job Eddie Howe is doing with Bournemouth who have won their last three games to push them a place and a point above Boro into 12th.
“I watched their game against Blackburn (on Wednesday which they won 1-0) and I think they are very organised,” he added.
“They are in a good position and we need to work hard to win the game.”
Midfielder Lee Tomlin’s availability rests with the physio while Jonathan Woodgate is also touch and go.