Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka backs Alvaro Negredo to break his goal drought
Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka has backed striker Alvaro Negredo to rediscover his goalscoring touch ahead of Saturday's Premier League trip to reigning champions Leicester.
Negredo has come under increasing pressure to hold onto his place in the Boro front line after failing to score in 10 straight starts since the opening day of the season against Stoke.
But Karanka insists he is happy with the 31-year-old's work ethic and hopes a favourable run of games will help him rediscover the form that helped him impress during his two-year stay at Manchester City.
Karanka said: "When a striker is not scoring goals he is always going to have his critics just like when a team is not winning a manager is going to have his critics.
"For me his work on the pitch has been really good and he is improving and working hard. Everybody has to understand we are not a top team going five or 10 times in the opponents' box - we have to wait for our chances.
"Leicester won the league last season but they are not in a good moment so we will have to arrive more times in the opponents' box and he is going to score goals for sure in the way that he is working."
Karanka's message of support is likely to mean fellow striker Jordan Rhodes - who has been waiting patiently for a chance to impress this season - is once again likely to have to settle for a place on the bench.
Meanwhile Karanka has refused to put a precise timescale on the likely absence of influential defender George Friend, who picked up a knee injury in training which forced him to miss Sunday's 1-0 defeat to Chelsea.
But Friend is expected to be out for around the next four weeks, meaning Brazilian defender Fabio is likely to continue to deputise against the Foxes and in the potentially crucial games against Hull and Southampton.
Karanka added: "I am really pleased for Fabio. He has been training very well and he knew it was going to be difficult because George Friend is a really good player. But he trained well and had the confidence that he was going to play again one day."