Middlesbrough to mix it with Burnley at Christmas

Aitor Karanka
Aitor Karanka

AITOR Karanka is not averse to utilising his Middlesbrough squad during the Christmas period.

Karanka enjoyed only his second win in six attempts as Boro boss on Saturday at Millwall and they host table-toppers Burnley on Boxing Day (kick off 3pm) and then Reading three days after before a New Year’s Day game at Bolton.

The Spanish boss is now accustomed to the difficultly of the opposition that the Riverside-outfit face every week, regardless of their standing in the table, and that is why having quality in reserve is key.

He made five changes for the game in London at the weekend and says he will happily rotate personnel if changes elicit results.

“I know the squad because I work with the players every day,” he said.

“On Saturday, I played two players who don’t normally play, Jozsef Varga and Emmanuel Ledesma.

“It’s not new because I work with them every day.”

“There were five different players and then there were another 20 minutes with different players.

“I was very happy with them, and I always have said that if some players come in in January, it’s because they will be better than my players.”

“Without Grant (Leadbitter), without Woody (Jonathan Woodgate), without Rhys (Williams), without (Kei) Kamara, we won on Saturday and for this I am very happy.”

Three wins in as many games over the next week could see Boro included in play-off discussion, but equally three losses could see them residing at the foot of the table.

Karanka does not believe the latter possibility would be merited and thinks the three points earned at The New Den can have a positive impact.

He added: “We’ve not been playing badly, it’s just the last-minute goals that have been costing us so much.

“We showed in spells that we can play the ball and cause problems for teams.

“So I think we can get a lot of confidence from this.”