Aitor Karanka calls on his team "to be confident" ahead of Sunday's Saints clash

Aitor Karanka calls on his team "to be confident" ahead of Sunday's Saints clash

The Boro boss takes his side to the south coast in search of consecutive wins for the first time this season.

Dom Brown

Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka has been speaking the the press ahead of his team's game against Southampton.

Following Monday's 1-0 victory over Hull City, Karanka is hopeful that Boro can keep up their good form of late.

Gaston reflects the good form of Boro at this time

When quizzed about Middlesbrough's goal scorer against Hull, Karanka was full of praise for the Uruguayan Gaston Ramirez, saying he has "done an amazing job since he arrived here."

"We are committed. And Gaston is playing well but so is everyone else." Added the Spanish coach.

Aitor Karanka was keen to keep focus on Middlesbrough's upcoming game as he was asked if his side were exceeding expectations.

In the Monday Night Football match, Boro players ran a total 120.8km against their Yorkshire opponents and when Karanka was asked about this he responded by saying "It shows how commited we are... When I saw that stat I was really pleased, it's very important."

Injuries and updates to the squad

Ramirez, who had to be substituted on Monday night, along with Alvaro Negredo are said to be doubts for the Southampton fixture. 

These two, along with Jordan Rhodes, could not train according to Karanka who added "The main thing is the players who are ready to train."

It would be a shame for all three should they not be able to play against Claude Puel's Saints. Ramirez and Negredo had been coming into a rich vein of form throughout November and early December.

Jordan Rhodes would also be the player most likely to replace the former Valencia forward should be not be able to play. If the Scottish striker cannot play then the lone striker role may fall to Cristhian Stuani who has been on the bench in recent weeks.

Also, should Ramirez not be able to play then Boro have a ready made replacement in Adama Traore on the bench. It came as a surprise to Middlesbrough fans when Traore was left out of the starting XI against Hull, and many expect him to return to the side on Sunday.

Aitor Karanka explained leaving out the former Aston Villa wideman in his press conference. "I need to put 11 on the pitch and for that game I thought it was best without Adama."

Adding: "The main thing is nobody in this team is untouchable and we have a full squad of players ready to play."

Should Adama return to the team, it will be interesting to see if Viktor Fischer retains his place in the side or if Karanka will wish to play Stewart Downing for the experience that might be missing should Fischer and Traore start on the flanks.

On the opposition

When he was asked about Middlesbrough's opponents on Sunday he was quick to praise a Southampton team that "plays good football"

"They have two more points but we have scored and conceded the same... They have a good and experienced coach."

When the Saints welcome Middlesbrough, they will be without striker Charlie Austin as the former QPR striker has been ruled out after being forced off during the Europa League clash with Hapoel Be'er Sheva.

Middlesbrough's head coach was asked about the missing Austin, acknowledging that "He’s a good player but whoever replaces him will have his chance."

It looks likely that the Republic of Ireland striker Shane Long with lead the line against Middlesbrough.