Ian Holloway: Middlesbrough players now know Aitor Karanka is the man

The pundit has heaped praise on the Boro head coach.

Ian Holloway believes Middlesbrough's players now know that Aitor Karanka is 'the man,' according to his regular predictions column for Sky Sports.

Ahead of their Championship clash with Preston, Holloway has backed Middlesbrough to win - and to go up.

He has praised the way in which the squad cleared the air and feels Karanka is a vital component of Boro's success.

Holloway told Sky Sports: "Preston have had a fantastic season and with a few more breaks here or there could have been challenging for the top six.

"However, Middlesbrough are revitalised. Aitor Karanka is the man and the players know that now. Since the big fallout everyone has pulled together. They've cleared the air, which has been vital. They'll be hard to stop now."

Middlesbrough are certainly in a strong position when it comes to promotion.

Should Karanka's men win their game in hand, they'll be four points clear of third-placed Brighton and two points clear of second-placed Burnley (currently top).

Middlesbrough's fate, then, is firmly within their own hands.

Just a few weeks ago, thinks looked very different for Boro. With Karanka absent and his future hanging in the balance, lowly Charlton Athletic were able to beat Middlesbrough 2-0. But now things are very much on the up at the Riverside Stadium.

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