Karanka outlines aim for upcoming Premier League season

Mark Scott
Aitor Karanka: Staying grounded at Boro

Aitor Karanka has warned people not to expect Middlesbrough to ‘do a Leicester’ as he focuses solely on achieving Premier League survival.

The promoted Teessiders open their Premier League campaign at home to Stoke on Saturday having finally secured their return to the top flight after a seven-year wait, and they are intent on remaining there following a lengthy and at times painful exile.

Karanka walked into a packed room when he arrived for his pre-match press conference, a measure of the heightened profile he can expect this season, and one journalist even apologised for the fact that it was his first visit.

That was not lost on the former Real Madrid defender when asked if his sights for the campaign would amount to anything more than simple survival.

He said: “No, no. My aim today is to finish the league to to see him (pointing to the journalist) here next season again. If I am here next season with him, it will be perfect.

“We can’t make the mistake to think we are Leicester because Leicester won (the title) last season. That doesn’t happen often.

“The main aim for us is to stay in the Premier League, to build the conditions to be here a long time because we have been working. It’s been really, really tough for the last two and a half years.

“The club has been working for the last seven years, so we need to keep our heads down, we need to know who we are and just focus on the following game.”

Karanka has made wholesale changes over the summer – he headed into the weekend with 10 new signings – and they will take time to settle in.

Among them are much-decorated former Barcelona keeper Victor Valdes and striker Alvaro Negredo, who numbers Sevilla, Manchester City and Valencia among his former employers, although their new head coach knows there are no guarantees even for established high-quality performers.

Valdes is one of four senior keepers on the books – Brad Guzan, Dimi Konstantopoulos and Tomas Mejias are the others – and Karanka was not revealing which of them would get the nod this weekend.

However, his 34-year-old compatriot Valdes has a wealth of experience and the winning mentality Boro will need.

Karanka said: “His team-mates have seen that since he arrived because he doesn’t like to lose a game in a training session. They are the kind of characters I wanted to bring here.

“Victor is a winner – I don’t need to check his CV. These are the kind of characters I like to bring in.”