Wednesday 17 January 2018

Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka is relaxed over Premier League position

Aitor Karanka is enthused by Middlesbrough's spirit despite their six-match winless run in the Premier League
Aitor Karanka is enthused by Middlesbrough's spirit despite their six-match winless run in the Premier League

Aitor Karanka is unconcerned by Middlesbrough's position in the Premier League, insisting the spirit of his side gives him reason to stay positive.

Boro are now only two points clear of the bottom three despite moving up a place to 15th after coming from behind to claim a 1-1 draw against West Brom on Tuesday night.

Their performance at a wet and windy Riverside, in which they dominated possession against a top-10 team, belied that of a side that have now stretched their winless run in the top-flight to six matches.

And Karanka was choosing to take the positives after Alvaro Negredo's penalty, which cancelled out former Boro midfielder James Morrison's early opener, rescued a point for his side.

The Spaniard, who led Boro to automatic promotion last season, said: "I am not concerned with the position or the points because with the spirit of this team I am really confident for the future.

"We got promotion last season because the spirit was amazing and since I arrived here always the spirit has been the key to be successful.

"My concern is the performances. If my players play and they have the same attitude every single day then it won't be a concern because we can't do more, I can't demand anything more from them because they've done every single thing."

Karanka had been despondent earlier in the week at a perceived lack of dealings in the transfer market but he did add Adlene Guedioura to his squad on deadline day.

The midfielder joined the Teessiders on a two-and-a-half-year deal for an undisclosed fee from Watford.

On his latest import, Karanka said: "I've liked him for the last three years. Even when Watford were in the Championship he looked like a man and he's the kind of player who has the personality, the quality and he (now) has the experience in the Premier League."

West Brom also swelled their ranks before the 11pm deadline as Marc Wilson once more linked up with Tony Pulis, who signed the defender for Stoke in 2010 and has now brought him to the Hawthorns from Bournemouth on loan until the end of the season.

Pulis, who revealed Jonny Evans could return from a calf complaint to face Stoke at the weekend after missing the last four matches, said: "He'll give us that cover that I hope to God we don't need but we might need."

The Baggies, who sit eighth in the table and are an outside bet for European football next season, had the better of the chances at Boro, with Matt Phillips and Salomon Rondon hitting opposite posts within seconds of each other in the second half.

While Pulis was content to avoid defeat, he thought they were unlucky not to walk away with all three points.

He said: "To come to the cold, wet north-east on Tuesday night, it's tough. Middlesbrough are a good side, they've worked very, very hard as a group and they've given their manager everything, and we've stood up to it. But we're a little bit disappointed we didn't get the three points.

"(But to have) thirty-three points from 23 games is absolutely fantastic. Now we've just got to make sure we drive forward and keep going forward."

Press Association

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