Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka has spoken of his shock at discovering that Leeds United were a Championship club two years ago after recalling his contest with Mark Viduka and the ‘aggressive’ Alan Smith in the Champions League.
Karanka, a former centre-back, came up against Leeds as a player when Madrid inflicted a 3-2 defeat on David O’Leary’s United at the Bernabeu in 2001.
The Boro boss said he was ready that night for the challenge of facing Australian international Viduka but admitted the ability of Smith had caught him by surprise during a dramatic game in Spain.
Viduka and Smith both scored at the Bernabeu but Madrid won the tie through a Luis Figo strike and a brace from Raul – his first allowed to stand despite clear handball.
Speaking ahead of tonight’s meeting between Leeds and Boro at Elland Road, Karanka said: “Smith was a young player and at that time we didn’t have the Internet, we didn’t know the players like they do today, so it was a surprise to me.
“Everyone knew Viduka but it (Smith’s performance) was a very good surprise. The game was a nightmare. Smith was a kid but he was aggressive and a good player.
“They played in the semi-final against Valencia.
“On the day (when Karanka met Leeds as Boro boss for the first time in 2013) it was a surprise as the last time I’d faced Leeds was in the Champions League.
“Seeing them 13 years later in the Championship was a surprise, but after two years of playing against the likes of Blackburn, Derby and every other important team in this division, you are more used to playing those games.”