Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka issues warning to Championship promotion rivals

MIDDLESBROUGH, ENGLAND - MAY 15:  Aitor Karanka manager of Middlesbrough celebrates as they reach the final after the Sky Bet Championship Playoff semi fin
Image: Aitor Karanka thinks Middlesbrough will improve in the second half of the season

Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka has issued a warning to their promotion rivals, insisting his side will get even better in the second half of the season.

Boro will sit top of the Sky Bet Championship on Christmas Day after a stunning 3-0 victory at previously unbeaten Brighton saw them open up a two-point gap over second-placed Derby.

And, speaking on the FL72 Podcast, Karanka revealed the best was yet to come from Middlesbrough.

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Asked if his table-topping side could improve in the second half of the season, Karanka replied: "Yes.

"In my first season, where I started in November, the second half was really good. Last season the second half was one point better than the first so I am confident.

Christian Stuani of Middlesbrough celebrates
Image: Middlesbrough climbed to the top of the Championship with victory at Brighton

"The team in the last two to three seasons have finished the season well, and the players are more committed every single day, that is the main thing."

Following last season's play-off final defeat to Norwich, Boro have rekindled the form which saw them make it all the way to Wembley, winning 14 of their opening 22 games.

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Surprisingly, Karanka looks back at May's defeat positively, sighting the loss as a key event in his maturity as a manager.

In my first season the second half was really good. Last season the second half was one point better than the first so I am confident [we will improve].
Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka

As such, he does not fear a return to the play-offs this season, claiming Boro's goal this season is to win promotion, regardless of the method.

"I prefer to not think about the play-off final, I only bring good things from that final," he added. "It was difficult but I learnt a lot from losing that final, I'm more mature.

"The main thing is that we have a clear objective, which is get promotion.

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"If we can't finish first or second we will get another chance and I know this season we will be better prepared than we were last season.

"I don't want to put more pressure by saying we have to finish first or second."

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