AITOR KARANKA should find out later today if Mustapha Carayol will be forced to miss this weekend’s trip to Watford.
The 23-year-old was forced to miss the final 16 minutes of Saturday’s goalless draw with Blackburn Rovers after tormenting the visiting defence.
Karanka is hoping that the problem is nothing serious and that he can stay in the side which takes on the Hornets this weekend.
Carayol has been a key part of the Spaniard’s thinking and that was highlighted last month when they knocked back interest from Brighton for his services.
Middlesbrough are keen to try to get their surge towards the play-off zone back on track having lost ground in recent weeks after failing to win any of their last four matches.
Despite Carayol’s impressive display against Blackburn, he could not help end a run of four games without scoring, which has been the major reason for Middlesbrough’s recent dip in form.
Karanka will be looking to spend this week aiming to improve his team’s fortunes in front of goal, particularly following the arrivals of Danny Graham and Lee Tomlin on deadline day.
Tomlin will still be missing at Vicarage Road on Saturday when he serves the final game of a suspension he picked up before he joined from Peterborough on a half-season loan.
If Karanka can get Middlesbrough – and Graham, following his unsuccessful time at Sunderland and Hull - firing in the final third again then there is still time to close the gap to the top six.
But nobody at the Riverside is keen to talk the play-offs up or down.
Defender Jonathan Woodgate, who was recalled in light of injuries to Rhys Williams and Daniel Ayala at the weekend, said: “Playing catch-up is really hard and there are that many teams in front of us.
“We’ve left it late – really late – but you don’t give up, there’s a chance, it’s not out of reach and we have to try to keep on going.”