Can Aitor Karanka make Nottingham Forest top six contenders this term?

Aitor Karanka, Manager of Middlesbrough looks on prior to the Premier League match between Stoke City and Middlesbrough at Bet365 Stadium on March 4, 2017 in Stoke on Trent, England.

Aitor Karanka will take charge of his first game for the club this weekend.

Middlesborough manager Aitor Karanka gestures from the sideline during during the Premier League match between Middlesbrough and Everton at Riverside Stadium on February 11, 2017 in...

Aitor Karanka will be in the dugout for the first time since replacing Mark Warburton on Saturday when Nottingham Forest host Aston Villa at the City Ground. 

Forest currently lie in 14th place in the Championship, 12 points adrift of a play-off spot and eight points clear of the relegation places. 

The East Midlands club have ambitions of challenging for the play-offs and they were on the brink of the top six in November, sitting seventh at one stage but their slide down the table ultimately cost Warburton his job. 

The Spaniard knows what it takes to win promotion, having done it with Boro in 2016. He also guided the club to the play-off final in the 2014-15 season so it is nothing new to him, but can he do it this term? 

Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka celebrates following the Sky Bet Championship match between Middlesbrough and Brighton and Hove Albion at the Riverside Stadium on May 7, 2016 in...

Arguably, the squad and resources Karanka had at Boro were slightly better than what he has at Forest but nonetheless he is inherited a talented squad with a lot of bright young players and also has a transfer window to improve the team.

12 points is quite a large gap to claw back in just over three months, so he will need to hit the ground running. That is something he did not do when he joined Middlesbrough in November 2013. Boro were 16th when he took over and began by winning just one of his first five games. He did guide Boro up to 12th but was still pretty far away from the play-offs. 

Middlesbrough Manager, Aitor Karanka looks on during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Middlesbrough at Old Trafford on December 31, 2016 in Manchester, England.

If the past is anything to go by, Karanka will use the first season to implement his style on the Forest players and we will be able to see the impact of that later in the campaign. The Spaniard will try to make Forest tighter defensively and needs time to make those changes. 

Play-off contention may be too difficult this season, but there is no doubt Karanka will have the club challenging for a place in the top ten, which would be a significant improvement on last season. 

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