Middlesbrough go into the vital festive period with confidence at the top of the Championship – but with their feet firmly on the floor.
That is the assessment from Aitor Karanka as Boro look to stretch their unbeaten run to seven games at Blackburn on Saturday (kick-off 3pm).
I feel the main thing when you are in this position is that you don’t think you are in the Premier League yetAITOR KARANKA
Boro are proudly in pole position at the summit after a run of five wins and a draw from their last six matches – all clean sheets.
They lead the league by two points over Derby County following their stunning 3-0 win at Brighton, smashing the unbeaten run of the Seagulls in the process.
“We have beaten a team that had not lost a single game,” said Karanka.
“It was especially good after our defeat at Hull when some people might have had doubts about us.
“But after those games against Birmingham, Burnley and Brighton we are now top of the table and on a good run.
“The league though is about 46 games.
“I feel the main thing when you are in this position is that you don’t think you are in the Premier League yet.
“The players know we have another game on Saturday and then we play again on Monday.
“They are not getting too excited and because they have their feet on the floor I feel confident.”
Boro’s great sequence has been built on solidity – those six clean sheets for keeper Dimi Konstantopoulos and his colleagues.
But Karanka is just as happy to see the opposition net bulging.
Boro are the joint leading scorers in the division, despite not having a marksman anywhere near the top of the Championship charts.
David Nugent and Cristhian Stuani are their leading league scorers on five, followed by Diego Fabbrini and Kike on four apiece.
Last season, Boro did not score enough and Karanka is pleased to see the goals being shared around.
“Goals make the difference,” he saidin an interview with BBC Tees. “Last season, Bournemouth and Watford’s strikers scored a lot of goals and we did not score as many, that proved a difference.
“This season, all of our strikers are scoring goals and we are scoring from midfield.
“That is important.”
Boro face a tough test at Ewood Park against a resurgent Blackburn. Paul Lambert has lost just once in six matches in charge and only the top two are above Rovers in the form table.