Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka admits he has something of a selection headache as his side prepare to take on recently relegated Burnley.
The Spaniard is assessing his squad after their 0-0 draw with Birmingham at a rain soaked Riverside Stadium on Saturday.
I’m a lucky coach because I have 20 players to choose from and now I have to pick the best elevenAitor Karanka
And Karanka admits the conditions may have an effect on his squad selection as tiredness kicked in: “It was very difficult conditions.
“It was raining for 90 minutes and the pitch was very heavy.
“We’re now in December and I have to keep checking on my players.”
But the manager of the Championship’s second-placed side is adamant he will have a strong squad to choose from and will have to think very carefully about which side he puts out.
“I’m a lucky coach because I have 20 players to choose from and now I have to pick the best eleven,” said Karanka in an interview with BBC Tees.
“At the moment I don’t know what my team will be tomorrow.
“If I play the same team tomorrow and we lose the game then people will be upset.
“We have to think about the past, the present and especially the future because the league is very tough and we don’t finish until May.”
Another positive for Karanka is the return of James Husband from his loan spell at Fulham, with the former Doncaster Rovers defender putting in some impressive performances in London.
And now Karanka feels he can add to his Boro squad: “He went out to play and he did very well.
“He’s played every single game at Fulham and did well and he’s bringing us another option.”
Burnley travel to the Riverside having lost only once in their last ten league outings and currently sit fifth in the Championship and Karanka is more than aware of the threat they will pose.
“They are an experienced team,” he said.
“They have a very good manager, who is young but experienced, and experienced players who played last season in the Premier League.
“They know the Premier League and they know the Championship because they were there two years ago.”
And the Middlesbrough manager believes the Clarets will be one of the teams challenging his side for promotion in May: “For me they will be one of our biggest rivals and this will be a tough game.
“I thought they would be in this position and if they beat us they are only two points behind us.
“This is a tough league and they will be a tough opponent so will have to look at ourselves and keep going.”
Victory over Burnley could see Middlesbrough climb to the top of the Championship should Brighton slip up at QPR after Boro missed the opportunity at the weekend.
But Karanka insists his side will be concentrating on their own fortunes rather than looking at other results: “It was the same thought before the game against Birmingham as Brighton and Derby played each other.
“We all drew, so tomorrow is the same.
“We need to think about ourselves and if we win our games we can forget the other teams.”