Middlesbrough vs Oxford United - Karanka vows not to let history repeat itself



Posted Saturday, February 18, 2017 by PA

Aitor Karanka has vowed not to let history repeat itself as he attempts to steer Middlesbrough to cup glory and Premier League survival.

Twenty years ago, Boro reached both the League and FA Cup finals with a star-studded side built around Juninho, Fabrizio Ravanelli and Emerson.

However, a replay defeat by Leicester after a 1-1 draw at Wembley and a 2-0 reverse at the hands of Chelsea saw them twice fall at the final hurdle, and worse was to follow when the club surrendered its top-flight status at the end of an eventful 1996-97 campaign.

On Saturday, Boro entertain League One Oxford with a place in the FA Cup quarter-finals at stake, but sitting just two points clear of the drop zone and, while head coach Karanka will allow both his players and the fans to dream, he will not take his eye off the ball and risk a similar mistake.

He said: "I like - and I think I have done it since I have been here - to change those type of things. It's impossible to win two titles, but why can't we win the title (FA Cup) and stay in the Premier League?

"We just have to be positive, to dream if we can dream, especially about a title knowing that the first aim is to survive and to stay in the Premier League.

"If someone had asked us if we would have signed up to be in this position in pre-season, I think everybody would have signed.

"To be outside the relegation positions, in this round of the cup and especially showing the performances that we are showing every single game, you have to be positive."

Boro have eased their way towards the business end of the competition with home victories over Championship opponents Sheffield Wednesday and League Two side Accrington.

Although both were hard-fought wins, Karanka is taking nothing for granted this time around against a side which thumped derby rivals Newcastle 3-0 in the last round.

He said: "In my second season here, it was Manchester City and Arsenal and this season, it has been Accrington and Sheffield Wednesday and now Oxford.

"But we have to be really, really careful because it's going to be a tough, tough game, especially if we don't go on to the pitch with the right attitude.

"We have the experience in the last round when we went on to the pitch thinking that it was going to be an easy game an we had problems against Accrington, and our opponent beat Newcastle 3-0, so it's going to be a tough game."

Full-back George Friend is back in contention. He has not played since damaging a calf muscle early on against Accrington but is available once again, although fellow defender Antonio Barragan is still out with a hamstring strain.

Gaston Ramirez, who was used as a substitute in last weekend's 0-0 Premier League draw with Everton, could return to the starting line-up for the first time since January 2 following his rejected transfer request and a knee problem, but new signing Adlene Guedioura is cup-tied having already played in the competition for Watford.

Meanwhile, Oxford captain John Lundstram hopes to see good friend Adam Forshaw en route to a Wembley appearance this season.

Lundstram and Forshaw came through the Everton youth set-up together and could line up against each other at the Riverside.

He said: "I hope that they make changes but also hope my good mate Adam Forshaw plays. I'm looking forward to seeing him.

"At the same time he's a top, top player, so if he doesn't play I won't be too disappointed."

The pair have been in Whatsapp communication since the draw for the last 16, a stage Oxford reached for the first time since 1993-94 by beating Newcastle 3-0.

If Michael Appleton's men can beat Boro in front of more than 3,000 visiting fans on Teesside, it would be Oxford's best FA Cup run in 53 years.

With non-League Lincoln and Sutton occupying attention, Oxford's progress has gone relatively unnoticed, but they have cup pedigree and last season knocked Swansea out.

"We've gone under the radar, so that's probably a good thing for us," Lundstram added.

"If one of the other smaller clubs go through, you never know, we could even nick a couple more rounds.

"There's belief in the camp, so hopefully we can do something."

Oxford have no fresh injury concerns.

Appleton's side saw a five-game winning streak ended on Tuesday against Southend, but he was pleased with the performance.

Joe Skarz is available following illness but defenders Christian Ribeiro and Sam Long continue their rehabilitation from injury.



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