AITOR KARANKA is the first to admit that a tie against a promotion rival is far from ideal – with his thoughts reciprocated by his Burnley counterpart Sean Dyche.
Yet while the FA Cup is far from being Karanka’s overwhelming priority this calendar year, maintaining momentum and adhering to high standards most definitely is – regardless of which competition that his side play in.
Boro head into today’s tie seeking a fifth successive win and seventh consecutive clean sheet in all competitions, although Karanka ideally wishes his side weren’t hosting Burnley for the second time in three-and-a-half weeks.
He said: “I was speaking with Sean after our last game and neither of us were happy with the draw because it’s always difficult to play against a tough team like Burnley.
“It’s a tough game. They’re fighting with us at the top of the table and played in the Premier League last season.
“To be honest I’d prefer to play a lower division team because I could’ve made more changes to the team and given more opportunities to the players who aren’t playing.
“Either that or play against a big team like we did last season with Man City and Arsenal or Man United and Everton this season.”
Form side Boro head into today’s tie with Karanka likely to field a much-changed Middlesbrough side.
Several key players are expected to be handed a breather ahead of back-to-back away Championship outings at Brentford and Bristol City, with Karanka having delivered a positive New Year message to the supporting cast.
The likes of Diego Fabbrini, Fernando Amorebieta and Adam Forshaw are among those set to be handed chances to shine this afternoon.