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  • "It's a real shame for the Smoggies, if they'd hit this run of form just two games earlier then I think they may have made the play-offs. And the form they're in, they'd have won it. Ah well, next season..."
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Karanka feels strong finish will set Middlesbrough up for next season

SIGNING OFF IN STYLE: Aitor Karanka has watched his Middlesbrough side win four games in a row

SIGNING OFF IN STYLE: Aitor Karanka has watched his Middlesbrough side win four games in a row

First published in Sport Darlington and Stockton Times: Photograph of the Author by

AITOR KARANKA claims Middlesbrough's strong finish to the current campaign will give them the best possible chance of succeeding next season – whether they make it to the play-offs or not.

Having been written out of the promotion picture a couple of weeks ago, a run of four successive victories has given the Teessiders an outside chance of sneaking into the top six.

They are six points adrift of the play-off places with four games remaining, although the fact there are five teams separating them from sixth-placed Reading mitigates against the likelihood of a dramatic late push.

Nevertheless, after struggling for consistency for the majority of the campaign, Karanka is delighted to see his team finally stringing together an impressive winning sequence.

And while there will inevitably be personnel changes in the summer, the Boro boss is hoping his players will carry their current momentum into the early weeks of next season.

“The best way to prepare for the next season is to finish the current one strongly,” said Karanka, who will have Kenneth Omeruo available for Saturday's home game with Millwall after the Chelsea loanee completed a one-match ban.

“The most important thing now is to finish off strongly because that means you will go into the summer much more comfortable. It is the best way to prepare for what comes next.”

Millwall, who are likely to feature former Boro midfielder Nicky Bailey in their weekend starting line-up, will also have Richard Chaplow available after he recovered from an Achilles problem. However, Ed Upson has been ruled out for the rest of the season.

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