CRAIG HIGNETT is expecting his Middlesbrough players to produce a much-improved display when they play the second game of their Spanish training break this morning.

Boro take on Real Balompedica Linense in Marbella, having lost their previous game on Spanish soil when they went down 1-0 to Spanish Third Division side Lucena on Wednesday.

Aitor Karanka was critical of his players’ approach three days ago, and while pre-season performances count for little once the real action begins, Hignett is anticipating a marked step up in standards later today.

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“Aitor has had a good chat with the lads and they know exactly what is expected when we play again on Saturday,” said the Boro number two. “We couldn’t break them (Lucena) down. We had 90 per cent of the play so we were disappointed with that, but it’s pre-season and we have another game coming up.”

Hignett is experiencing his first pre-season as Boro’s assistant head coach, and has been impressed with the level of planning and preparation that has gone into preparing the squad for new Championship season, which begins with a home game against Birmingham City on August 9.

“Aitor demands high standards from the players and staff, and we have to make sure everything is right,” he said. “Obviously, I was at Hartlepool last year for pre-season, but this is new to me.

“I’m still learning and getting used to Aitor and how he wants things doing, and what sort of sessions he wants putting on.

“Things are a lot more scientific now than they used to be and seeing some of the sessions and how they are, I haven’t seen this type of coaching before. It’s very intense, and so organised.”