AITOR Karanka will tell his players that they have to replicate recent home performances to beat Blackburn Rovers tomorrow (kick-off 3pm).
Boro return to the Riverside for the first time in three weeks after the fortnight international break and last weekend’s 1-1 draw at Wigan Athletic.
They begin the weekend in third place, just three points off Championship leaders Derby County, but the visitors are only two points adrift of the Teessiders and occupy sixth spot.
Karanka knows that a display short of what his team is capable of could very feasibly result in only a second defeat in 14 games.
“We have to play in the way we played against Watford, Norwich and in the second half against Bournemouth,” he said. “Blackburn are not in the same position as us but just two points below us in the table and it is another important three points to win.
“They are a team that is very organised, with good players up front so it will be a difficult game but we have to think about ourselves.”
“It is an important time, now until Christmas,” he added to BBC Tees, stressing that every game’s outcome will determine where Boro reside come May.
“But so too is January to February and March to May. But for me the main game is Saturday’s game.
“We have another one next week in London (Millwall) but the important game is Blackburn and we have to come back to the Riverside and win again.”
Adam Clayton collected his fifth booking of the season against Wigan so Grant Leadbitter will be paired with either Dean Whitehead or Tottenham Hotspur loanee Miloš Veljkovi in midfield.
In attack, Patrick Bamford is hoping to start after he equalised against the Latics last Saturday. The more pressing issue surrounding the Chelsea loan star, however, is whether or not his loan deal will be extended beyond January.
“For me, I would sign him in 10 minutes,” Karanka said.
“It’s not a problem (extending the loan) when all of us are happy. I can’t think of any reasons why (he would) not (sign until May).
“We are very happy with him, he is happy here and Chelsea are happy so I am not concerned about his future. I knew the kind of player he was when I wanted to bring him on loan and I had no doubt that he was going to be an important player for us.”