Level on points with leaders Bournemouth, Boro can take a hold on first place with victory over the in-form Cherries today.
Eddie Howe’s side, who have won their last seven matches in all competitions, have enjoyed their two visits to Yorkshire so far this term, thrashing Huddersfield Town 4-0 on the opening day and beating Sheffield Wednesday 2-0 on Tuesday night.
Now the fixture list has sent them to Teesside in a summit meeting akin to their meeting with Boro in November, 1986 when both were fighting it out at the top of the old Third Division.
Karanka, whose side are aiming to seal a sweet week which has seen them thump Norwich 4-0 and triumph 3-0 at Rotherham, said: “It is always important to be in the highest position because then your confidence is better and the mood is improved.
“This is a game with our direct rivals, and we are playing for the first position.
“It would be very good to win, but I always say the same, and that is that this league is very tight and very long.
“We will have to think about the game on Saturday, but after that game there are still a lot more games to go.”
Albert Adomah is available, while Karanka confirmed he is hopeful of extending Patrick Bamford’s loan in the New Year.
Last six games: Middlesbrough WWLDWW, Bournemouth WWWWWW.
Last time: Middlesbrough 3 Bournemouth 3; September 21, 2013; Championship.
Referee: S Hooper (Wiltshire).