AITOR Karanka has sent Middlesbrough and the fans a warning: Don’t be fooled into thinking Nottingham Forest will be a ‘gimme’ on Boxing Day.
Fourth-placed Boro take on Stuart Pearce’s side at the Riverside where a 30,000-plus crowd is expected (kick-off 3pm).
The Boro faithful will be hopeful of taking three points against a Forest team who have not won in four games.
Forest have taken 10 points out of a possible 30 during a period Boro have pocketed 16.
But Pearce’s team have lost the same number of matches Boro have - five - and only Bournemouth, Charlton and Ipswich have been beaten less.
They have been held back by the high number of draws and Karanka is well aware they will be hard to beat.
“We are making a big mistake if we think Nottingham Forest are struggling,” said the Spaniard who yesterday appointed Steve Agnew as his new assistant head coach.
“Forest have a very good manager, very good players and are a very good team.
“They started the league very well and while they are not in the same way now, if we go in expecting an easy game then we are making a mistake.”
Karanka is desperate to see his side bounce back from Saturday’s defeat at Ipswich, where they slipped from second to fourth.
It was a match he labelled “embarrassing”.
He also wants to impress the bumper crowd they are anticipating.
“We have sold almost 30,000 tickets and I expect an amazing game,” Karanka said in an interview with BBC Tees.
“Boxing Day is an important game for people in this country and what better way than to forget our last match than by putting in a good performance on Friday.
“The main thing for us is to convince them to come back, keep going with us and keep going to the Riverside to support us.
“When we started the season it was 12,000 and 14,000, now the crowds are close to 24 and 26 and may be Friday it will be 30.
“We are taking 7,000 fans too to Blackburn, these are big numbers, and it’s very pleasing.”
The match will mark the return to the Riverside of Agnew, who succeeds Craig Hignett as Karanka’s assistant.
Former Pools assistant and Boro coach Agnew had been working at Hull City alongside Steve Bruce.
“We are very pleased,” said Karanka. “We have taken the right steps, we were not in a hurry, we wanted to make sure that the person coming in was the right one.”