THE stakes are unquestionably high for both sides at the London Stadium today.
The lion’s share of the pressure may be foisted upon the shoulders of West Ham, with national scribes having been busy penning crisis-type articles following the Hammers’ poor run of five defeats in six Premier League games this season, but Boro have their own pertinent issues.
Namely a run of three successive defeats for the first time in the tenure of Aitor Karanka, who took over on Teesside in November, 2013.
Karanka is rather more preoccupied with yielding a renaissance in Boro’s fortunes following setbacks against Spurs, Everton and Crystal Palace and says that his side should read little into the Hammers’ travails.
Karanka said: “West Ham are not having a good moment, but the biggest mistake would be to go there thinking that it is going to be an easy game because they have problems in their new stadium and that they are not playing well.
“They showed last season that they have a really good manager and really good players.”
Boro were second-best in their recent defeats to Spurs and Everton, in particular, with Karanka candidly revealing that he felt that he probably made a mistake after the 3-1 defeat at Goodison Park in admitting that the Blues are in a different stratosphere to his own side.
It is all a question of perception, but Karanka acknowledges that he maybe made an error in planting a seed in the minds of people – and potentially his own players – that Boro are inferior to certain teams.
He added: “Maybe I made a mistake to say Everton was not in our league because we can’t go to the pitch thinking ‘Everton is not in our league, Tottenham is not in our league, Man United, City, Liverpool are not in our league’ because if we don’t win one game, or we don’t win a point in those games we are going to be relegated.
“The starting point has to be the second half against Tottenham. We showed everybody we can compete against a team playing in the Champions League, unbeaten in Premier League and fighting for title last season. In the second 45 minutes, we scored once and could have scored another. The image of the team then was completely different.”
Fabio da Silva and James Husband were due to return to action, after injuries, in yesterday’s Under-23s Premier League Cup tie at Fulham.