Aitor Karanka keen on instilling confidence in Middlesbrough’s players

Middlesbrough head coach Aitor Karanka.
Middlesbrough head coach Aitor Karanka.
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Middlesbrough head coach Aitor Karanka is eager to ease the pressure on his players as they prepare for a meeting with relegation rivals Crystal Palace.

Palace head into the weekend second bottom in the Premier League, with Boro only three points and three places better off.

There is no masking the importance of the match to both camps, but Karanka sees no value in intimidating the squad by repeatedly stressing the magnitude of the fixture.

“I don’t want to put pressure on the players,” he said.

“I can’t be here every day telling them how important, how massive this game is because they know. Everybody knows.

“The people who come here to watch our training sessions to do interviews, everyone says the atmosphere here is really good and you don’t realise you are watching a session of a team in the relegation battle.”

“My job is to transmit my confidence to them.”

Karanka’s faith may have been tested by a run of six league matches without a win since the turn of the year, but he prefers to see the positive signs.

While a gritty goalless draw against Everton in their last league game showed they were up for the fight, their form against fellow strugglers provides even greater reason for cheer.

In six matches so far against teams around them in the bottom six, they have taken 11 points and lost only once – albeit in the home game against Palace.

“That record is another thing to be confident about. When we have to defend or try to add one point we are doing that, but when we have to win we are doing that too,” he said.

“We have played a lot with teams who are in the top 10 of the table and even playing against them we have had chances to win those games.

“Now we have a chance to play against a team in our position and I am confident.”

Boro have injury doubts for the game, all at full-back. Antonio Barragan (hamstring) and Calum Chambers (stress fracture) look certain to miss out, while George Friend is touch and go as he comes back from calf trouble.

“They are not 100 per cent, they are all struggling,” said Karanka.

“But we have alternatives. I don’t think it is going to be a problem.”