THE significance of collecting three points has never been lost on Aitor Karanka – but now the Middlesbrough boss wants maximum returns more than ever.
Despite only one defeat in their last 14 games, a few too many – six to be precise – have ended in a draw, to Karanka’s annoyance.
And with Boro finding themselves four points off leaders Bournemouth, the danger of falling out of immediate touch of the summit is very real.
It is that reason why the Spaniard has stressed the importance of the Teessiders beating visitors Cardiff City tonight.
“It’s important as we need the three points because the league is very tough and when we lose two points or three points it is a problem,” he claimed.
“I always say the same – I want to be top-two by the end of the season.
“After the game against Brighton at home (the season’s last game) if we are in the top two, I will be the happiest man in the world.”
Boro’s players can go some way to making their boss – and the Riverside fans – the “happiest man in the world” if they overcome Russell Slade’s Bluebirds.
The visitors are 13th in the league, but the Welsh side has only won once away from home all season. But not being complacent is a pre-match speech that no doubt resonates from Karanka.
“It’s another testing game for us after the win on Saturday (2-0 against Huddersfield),” he added to BBC Tees.
“They are mid-table, but it’s Cardiff and we have to think about the game. They have very good players.
“The biggest mistake will be to think it’s going to be an easy game because they are not in the play-off positions.
“We have to go into it knowing it will be a difficult game.”
The demanding Karanka also has his sights on a conundrum – the dearth of goals from his three main strikers, Kike, Patrick Bamford and Jelle Vossen.
It has become somewhat of a repeated debate in recent weeks in which Karanka has rebuffed claims to go into the transfer market and sign another attacker, claiming that he has “the three best strikers in the league.”
But, he admits, his chosen arsenal do need to locate the net more frequently.
Responding to a question about Kike’s barren run in front of goal he said: “I hope (he starts scoring). Not just for Kike but all the strikers start scoring goals because I like to be positive.”