Belfast Telegraph

Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka out to avoid a cup upset

Aitor Karanka is determined Middlesbrough will not become a scalp twice in one season as he prepares to launch a new FA Cup campaign.

Premier League Boro entertain Sky Bet Championship Sheffield Wednesday on Sunday having already been knocked out of the EFL Cup by the Owls' second-tier colleagues Fulham, and the Spaniard is in no mood to suffer a repeat.

The Teessiders, of course, spent last season in the Championship with Wednesday and Karanka knows just how tough an afternoon it could be for his players at the Riverside Stadium.

He said: "They are a really good team. We have experience this season in the other cup of losing against Fulham, so we know it's going to be a tough game.

"We know them - or most of us know them - from last season and last season, they did really, really well.

"This season again, they are doing really well. [They have] a good coach, good squad for the Championship, aggressive, so it's going to be difficult.

"But it's a game I want to win."

There was little to choose between the sides in their league encounters last season with Cristhian Stuani's late strike at Hillsborough eventually securing a win in August 2015 before his first-minute effort was the only goal in the return on December 28.

Karanka said: "We had a lot of problems to beat them last season in the league. We scored at the beginning of the [home] game and it was just that goal.

"They caused us a lot of problems and this season, I am sure they will cause us problems because they are a good team with a good coach, experienced players and for sure, they will want to win the game."

Boro, who currently sit four points clear of the top-flight relegation zone, head into the game with a sizeable contingent of walking wounded, among them keeper Victor Valdes, full-back Fabio da Silva and midfielders Grant Leadbitter and Gaston Ramirez.

But Karanka will have £6million signing Rudy Gestede available for the first time, and he will field as strong a team as he dare.

He said: "I don't have a lot of players to rotate. I need to check because I have a few players who I don't know if they can play, but for sure, I will try to put out the best XI because I know how important this competition is here and I would like to have a good competition."

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