Aitor Karanka keen to see Middlesbrough build on recent upturn in form
Aitor Karanka has called on his Middlesbrough players to seize the opportunity to prove they belong in the Premier League when they face Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
Karanka insists his side will travel with no fear despite City's stunning midweek demolition of Barcelona having experienced their own significant boost in confidence levels in recent weeks.
Boro impressed in a goalless draw at Arsenal a fortnight ago then finally broke their seven-game winless streak when they followed it up with an impressive 2-0 win over Bournemouth.
Karanka said: "It's the same as when we went to Arsenal - we've been working for three years to play these kinds of games and we are really looking forward to it.
"My confidence comes from the last two fixtures. Last week was a really important game for us and for me the best part was the performance.
"We have recovered our consistency and we are adding to our points and our experience. Now the feeling is completely different and the players are more confident because 10 points are better than seven with Man City in front of us."
Karanka watched City's midweek triumph and said he expects City to continue getting better under Pep Guardiola, whom he became acquainted with during his time at Real Madrid when his opposite number was Barcelona boss.
Karanka added: "He (Guardiola) is one of the best coaches and I think now, especially after the win over Barcelona, he is changing a little bit.
"In the past he was always about possession but in the last game (City) have scored goals from the counter-attack and the long ball from Kolarov to Aguero.
"When you have these good players you have a lot of alternatives which is good for a coach and he is improving them.
"It's a nice game for us because both managers are from Spain. I said that with Pep here the league was going to improve, and he's showing how good he is."
One blow for Karanka heading to the Etihad is the absence of Gaston Ramirez due to suspension after he picked up his fifth booking of the season against the Cherries.
Dani Ayala is almost certain to miss out following a recurrence of his ankle injury, but Boro will be boosted by the return of top scorer Cristhian Stuani and midfielder Marten de Roon.
Karanka added: "I'm really confident about the future but I have the same confidence as I had two weeks ago going to Arsenal.
"Then we had seven points but my confidence was the same because I know how hard these players have worked in the summer and I trust every one of them 100%"