Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka admits he's undecided over whether to select influential midfield pair for Leeds clash

Middlesbrough Riverside Stadium gates

Karanka's men can go back to the top of the Championship table with a victory over Leeds.

Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka has admitted that he is still undecided as to whether he will select Adam Clayton or Grant Leadbitter for the club's clash with Leeds United on Monday, Gazette Live reports.

The pair have been hugely influential to Boro's promotion charge this season, but they have both collected nine yellow cards this term, meaning that a caution against the Whites would see them ruled out of the side's next two games. And Karanka admitted that the prospect of losing either has left him with a very difficult decision to make.

"It's the biggest doubt that I have now, with Adam and Grant both on nine bookings," he told Gazette Live.

"[Adam] Forshaw played really well against MK Dons so I have to think as I don't want to make a mistake.

"Against MK Dons I picked Grant and Forshaw because I didn't want to lose all of them, but now I have to think as all of them have different things.

"Clayton is the perfect No 6 for us, but Grant is the character on the pitch, he's the captain. Then with Forshaw he plays well as he goes forward and is another alternative. So I have to choose - I have three good alternatives."

With neither player being afraid to get stuck in, it seems almost inevitable that they will both serve another suspension before the end of the campaign.

And while Karanka would surely want neither to alter their style - as their performances have been so crucial to the team's success - and thus, may accept that both will have to sit out a couple of games in the near future, he will be keen to ensure that they serve the suspensions at different times to lessen the impact of their respective absences. 

However, with the automatic-promotion chasers not facing another side currently in the top eight in their next seven games, it surely makes sense to tell the pair to play their natural game during the coming weeks to ensure that by the time that current league leaders Hull visit in mid-March, neither has a suspension looming over them. 

With Boro currently on a run of four games without a win however, Karanka may be keen to simply concentrate on the prospect of facing Steve Evans' men, rather than spend too much time considering the potential impact that suspensions may have in the future.

While the Whites are currently on a poor run themselves - having won one of their last eight league games - their midfield is arguably their greatest strength, and so, keeping the likes of Liam Bridcutt and Lewis Cook quiet may be the difference between returning to the top of the division or not. 

And Karanka will be under no illusions that selecting Leadbitter and Clayton - who enjoyed a promising spell at Elland Road earlier in his career - will strengthen their chances of bagging a victory enormously. 

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