MUSTAPHA CARAYOL’S Middlesbrough career is hanging in the balance after Aitor Karanka admitted he axed the winger from the first-team squad because of an ‘attitude problem’.

Carayol was left out of the match-day squad for Saturday’s goalless draw with Leeds United after Karanka questioned the winger’s attitude and conduct in the build up to the game.

It is understood that the former Bristol Rovers midfielder was one of the players to have been singled out for criticism in the wake of the recent 1-0 defeat at Watford.

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Karanka accused some of his players of “thinking they were better than they are” when he conducted his post-match interviews at Vicarage Road, and the fall-out from the dressing-room inquest continued to be felt for the remainder of last week.

It resulted in Carayol playing no part in Saturday’s game, and while Karanka has publicly stated that the 23-year-old still has a future on Teesside, there will have to be a significant degree of bridge-building for him to start another game this season.

When asked about Carayol’s absence at the weekend, Karanka said: “He wasn't injured, I didn't like his attitude. I prefer to talk about the players who were in the game today.”

When he was pushed about the winger’s future prospects shortly after, the Boro boss added: “If he trains well this week he has a chance to play, yes.”

Karanka’s disciplinarian streak has become increasingly apparent in recent weeks, and it is clear that the Spaniard is not prepared to tolerate what he regards as active opposition to his philosophy and methods.

Having trod reasonably carefully since his appointment last November, it appears as though the Boro boss is now beginning to make tough decisions about how he wants his squad to look in the future.

Carayol’s place is clearly in jeopardy, and it is also notable that fellow winger Albert Adomah has only started one of Boro’s last five matches. At this stage, it is unlikely that either will be key performers next season.

It remains to be seen where Luke Williams features in the pecking order, but having returned from a successful loan spell at Hartlepool United with a glowing reference, the youngster has every chance of featuring in the squad for Saturday’s Championship game at Sheffield Wednesday.

That game will see Boro attempt to break a ten-hour run without a goal, but while Karanka was extremely critical of his side’s performance at Watford, he was much happier with their display against Leeds.

“I was very disappointed with the attitude of some players in the Watford game,” said the Boro boss. “I was not happy (on Saturday) because we didn’t win, but I was happy with the attitude of all the players on the pitch. If we play in this way then the wins will arrive.

“The team was good. I don’t want to say that we deserved to win, but we played well. More important than whether we played well or bad, though, is the fact that the attitude is right.”