AITOR KARANKA is excited to get his first experience of FA Cup football this afternoon and the Middlesbrough boss is not about to take the competition lightly.
There has been a huge outcry nationally over the last 48 hours after Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert suggested Premier League clubs could “probably” do without the distraction of playing in the famous competition.
And Steve Bruce, the Hull City boss set to take his team to the Riverside Stadium today, is expected to make wholesale changes for the second year in a row at the third round stage. Twelve months ago the former Sunderland manager named just two of his previous starting line-up to face Leyton Orient.
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But Karanka, aware that domestic knock-out competitions were never taken seriously in his Spanish homeland by top-flight clubs, is taking the FA Cup seriously and believes anything other than that would be disrespectful on Middlesbrough and its supporters.
Gaining promotion from the Championship may still be the priority at the Riverside, but he would love to enjoy a decent cup run in his first season in English football management.
“It’s different here. In Spain the cup for most teams is not important. It doesn’t matter to lose or win the first round,” said Karanka. “Here it is a lot different. If we can beat Hull then it would be brilliant for the club.
“It will be a difficult game but it will be good for my players to feel what it is like to face a Premier League team. We need to go to 120 per cent. We need to go and enjoy the game and try to score goals.
“It is important to win on Saturday, it’s the FA Cup and the people around here want Boro in the next round. We will prepare in the same way as we do for Championship games.
“Hull are a good team. They play with three defenders. They have big players, good players, two attacking full-backs. They are playing very well and we will have a difficult game.”
With goalkeeper Shay Given ineligible under the terms of his loan agreement from Aston Villa, Middlesbrough are set to hand a debut to Greek goalkeeper Dimi Konstantopoulos against Hull.
The 35-year-old has not played since April and has been waiting for a chance to shine since leaving AEK Athens in the summer. He has represented Greece and figured in Europe since leaving Hartlepool United for Coventry in May 2007.
Karanka, who does not expect Jason Steele to return to action after ankle trouble until February, has every confidence in Konstantopoulos.
He said: “I will change things because we had three games for Hull. We will revise the team to face Hull, but it will still be the best 11 for me to win the game.
“Dimi will be in goal. He needs to play. He is the kind of player who deserves to play. He was the third keeper when I was here and he has trained 100 per cent while I’ve been here. He has not played yet but he is a very experienced player. He played in the Champions League in Greece. He has experience.”