Karanka makes Forest exit

Nottingham Forest have parted company with head coach Aitor Karanka, with the club just outside the Championship play-off places.

The 45-year-old took charge at the City Ground in January 2018, having previously guided Middlesbrough to promotion to the Premier League in 2016.

Karanka started his senior coaching career as an assistant at Real Madrid, the club where he spent five years as a player, in between two spells with Athletic Bilbao.

A short statement from Forest confirmed: "Aitor Karanka has asked to be released from his contract as the manager of Nottingham Forest Football Club.

"The club have agreed to this request and the terms of departure have been agreed. Both parties wish each other every success for the future and there will be no further comment from either party."

Forest, currently seventh in the table, have only won one of their last six Championship games, but that victory came last time out when they saw off table-toppers Leeds United 4-2 at the City Ground.

Following that, what turned out to be Karanka's last game in charge came in a 2-0 FA Cup third round defeat at Chelsea.

The Midlanders are back in action on Saturday when they travel to lowly Reading, with the visitors side 6/5 to win the game, while the draw is priced at 12/5 and a 1-1 final scoreline is available at 5/1.

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Karanka bemoans future uncertainty

Aitor Karanka blamed Nottingham Forest's 1-0 defeat at struggling Millwall on the speculation over his future as manager.

The Spanish tactician is believed to be in danger of being axed at The City Ground with some reports suggesting he would be replaced if Forest failed to win at The Den on Saturday.

And, Karanka felt that was on the minds of his players in the first half of the game when Ryan Tunnicliffe fired the Lions into an early lead.

Forest improved after the break, but they could not find an equaliser and now sit 10th in the Championship, six points adrift of East Midlands' rivals Derby in the final play-off place.

Afterwards, Karanka said: "The way we approached this game and what happened in the last 24 hours, I was a little concerned with what happened to the players because the first half we were not ourselves.

"We didn't play with our intensity. We tried to do things we don't know what to do. We didn't play.

"The last 24 hours it wasn’t the best atmosphere to prepare for a game. Maybe when I played 15 years ago you could arrive to this game without listening to anything. We already knew what was going on. I felt the players were a little bit down before the game.

"I hope we can recover quickly mentally because on Tuesday we have another challenge."

Forest, who are 14/1 to be promoted this season, host leaders Leeds United on New Year's Day and are 21/10 to bounce back with a win. The Whites are 13/10 to pick up the three points and the draw is 23/10.

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Karanka keen to build on shock win

Nottingham Forest boss Aitor Karanka hopes his side can replicate the form they showed in Wednesday's victory against Newcastle in the Championship.

Goals from Daryl Murphy, Matty Cash and Gil Dias helped Forest record a fine 3-1 win against Rafa Benitez's side in the second round of the Carabao Cup.

Forest spent heavily in the summer on new players but they have made a modest start to the Championship season, winning one and drawing four of their first five matches.

They can be backed at 9/2 to be promoted this season and at 7/2 to beat Brentford this weekend.

Former Middlesbrough manager Karanka said: "The team deserved a good performance. It has been clear that when we play our football, we are a very good team.

"I didn't say anything because I didn't like the excuses, but I could feel what was happening in the games in the league were normal. We showed against Newcastle that without the pressure of the league we are a very good team and now we have to learn to be ourselves and take that pressure off."

Meanwhile, Newcastle have only taken one point from their first three Premier League matches of the season and are now out of the Carabao Cup.

Benitez is not too disheartened though, saying: "I don't agree that Forest were the better team and I'm not concerned by how we played. I'm really pleased with the players that were on the pitch because they were trying their best."

Forest’s potential excites Karanka

Aitor Karanka can't wait for the new Championship campaign to start after revamping the Nottingham Forest squad over the summer.

The former Middlesbrough manager has snapped up the likes of Joao Carvalho, Michael Dawson, Lewis Grabban, Luke Steele, Hillal Soudani and Tobias Pereira Figueiredo since the end of last season while Gil Bastiao Dias, Diogo Goncalves and Jack Colback have arrived on loan at The City Ground.

Forest are 10/3 to be promoted this season while they are 15/8 to beat Bristol City in their opening game of the campaign on Saturday.

Karanka said: "Of course I am excited. The whole club have been working very well this summer.

"It has been a nice summer and I enjoyed the pre-season because everything has been perfect so far.

"The players have been working really well, the new ones and the players that have been here. Everybody has understood what is going on so I am very pleased."

Forest have produced some good performances in pre-season, with a 3-0 victory against Malaga and 2-0 win over Premier League outfit Bournemouth the highlights.

Leeds United are 7/2 to be promoted from the Championship in the 2018/19 campaign while Tony Pulis' Middlesbrough are 11/4 to go up.

Karanka carries on signing

Nottingham Forest boss Aitor Karanka has continued to strengthen his squad by landing Jack Robinson from QPR.

The defender, who has penned an initial two-year deal at The City Ground, said: "I am delighted. I met Aitor about four weeks ago and, from the first moment I met him, this was the club that I wanted to sign for.

"He has the same ambition that I do in striving forward and getting this club to the top level so it was an easy decision for me to sign.

"I had been at QPR for four years so it was a tough decision and the fans have found it hard that I have left, but I had to make the right career choice for me. I think this is it, I'm happy to have signed and I can't wait to get going."

Karanka has also signed Algeria international Hillal Soudani for an undisclosed fee from Croatian side Dinamo Zagreb.

The 30-year-old, who has also scored 21 goals in 41 appearances for his country, has agreed a three-year deal at the City Ground.

Portuguese trio Gil Bastiao Dias, Diogo Goncalves and Joao Carvalho arrived at The City Ground earlier this summer with Carvalho moving from Benfica for £13.2million.

Forest are 4/1 to be promoted from the Championship in 2018/19 while QPR are 12/1 to go up.

Gibson Is A Banana Skin In Waiting

The annual feasting for relegated teams’ best players is well underway. Joshua Tymon has joined Stoke City, Andrew Robertson is on his way out of Hull and Jordan Pickford was quickly plucked by Everton.

Middlesbrough slumped into the Championship in unspectacular fashion last season. Aitor Karanka’s style of football brought no goals and – despite a seemingly good start to the campaign – they were doomed from the early weeks of 2017. Karanka stayed longer than the club should have allowed, but it was perhaps the most disappointing relegation of the three. Boro went down without a whimper.

The standout players, as a result, were few and far between. The midfield was dominated by noble industry, the attack brought measly returns. The defence, however, was impressive on the odd occasion. The challenge, though, is whether that was a result of the system of individual form.

Riyad Mahrez at 4/1 to still be a Leicester player in September

One player touted to retain Premier League status is Ben Gibson. Whoever his partner was at the heart of Boro’s defence, Gibson was an image of calm. He commanded the back line, and showed the ability to control some of the league’s best players in one-on-one duels.

The potential suitors have been varied. Though staying at Middlesbrough remains the market leader at 33/100, Leicester City sit at a tempting 4/1 to add the English central defender to their squad before the window closes. The Foxes have only this week completed the signing of Vicente Iborra and could be set to spend heavily as they look to avoid another brush with relegation that triggered the sacking of Claudio Ranieri last season.

The acquisition of Harry Maguire does make the 4/1 price look a little short, unless Craig Shakespeare will be completely overhauling a back line that won the title marginally over a year ago.

Any other club being in the reckoning for Gibson looks unlikely at this point. Tottenham at 12/1, Liverpool at 16/1 and Chelsea at 20/1 have all been linked with Boro’s rock in the past, but all have seemingly identified other targets this summer.

Get 33/1 on Gareth Bale to return to Spurs this summer

Of the three, Spurs are the team I can envisage making a move for Gibson, mind. Kevin Wimmer is on his way out of the club, and depth is certainly required for the Lilywhites to maintain a challenge on all three fronts, whether it be with a back three or a back four.

The concern over Gibson has to be about judging his adaptability. Although Middlesbrough’s defence was resolute for the majority of the season, Karanka’s outright safety-first approach clearly aided that. Calum Chambers’ good form for much of the campaign cannot go unnoticed, either, and the deep block that Boro opted for meant that Gibson seldom had to defend high up the pitch. Whether he moved to Liverpool, Chelsea or Spurs, Gibson would be required to defend in a vastly different way to how he was asked at the Riverside.

It could turn out to be a perfect signing – and working with Mauricio Pochettino has brought out the best in many players – but it looks like a banana skin ready to be slipped on in cartoon fashion by a top six club.

On the other hand, should Leicester want a new partner for Maguire, Gibson might be the best option around.

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Karanka: Monk a good appointment

Garry Monk has been described as "a good appointment" for Middlesbrough by his managerial predecessor Aitor Karanka.

Monk was installed as permanent boss at the Riverside Stadium earlier this month following his decision to resign from his role at Leeds United after 12 months in charge at Elland Road.

The 38-year-old transformed the Yorkshire outfit from Championship strugglers to promotion hopefuls on limited resources as they just ran out of steam in the closing stages of last season and missed out on a play-off place.

Monk has now been given the remit of getting Boro back into the Premier League at the first time of asking following the Teessiders relegation last term.

And Karanka, who successfully guided the club into the top flight in 2015-16 during his three-and-a-half-year tenure, feels Monk has the credentials to be a success.

The 43-year-old Spaniard, who departed Boro in March with the side in poor form and stuck in the relegation zone, told the Spanish radio show El Larguero: "It's a good one (appointment) because (Garry) is a young coach who had a good season last year at Leeds.

"Nobody expected them to do anything but he was on the verge of guiding them into the play-offs.

"In the view of Boro's philosophy, and knowing the owner, it's a good appointment.

"As far as I'm concerned, I hope things go well for (Garry) and that they get promoted next season."

Monk's Boro are 7/1 to win the Championship in 2017-18, while they are priced at 15/8 to be promoted.

Karanka waits on injured trio

Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka will hand fitness checks to three players to see if they can feature at Southampton on Sunday.

Alvaro Negredo, Gaston Ramirez and Jordan Rhodes are all struggling with injuries, while George Friend is a definite absentee.

Boro have tightened up considerably recently and have only conceded four goals in their last six league matches. They clinched an important 1-0 victory against Hull City on Monday and are 12/1 to beat Saints, who were knocked out of the Europa League on Thursday, by the same scoreline this weekend.

Boro can be backed at 10/3 to keep another clean sheet on Sunday while a 2-0 victory for Claude Puel's men is available at 11/2.

"Alvaro, Gaston and Jordan couldn't train with the team on Friday," said Karanka. "I need to check with the doctors.

"The main thing for me is the players who are ready to play are ready to take that chance.

"George it taking steps. Hopefully he can be with the team on Monday. I think from his injury point of view he is ready but maybe not his fitness, knowing George is a fit lad."

Karanka wary of Tigers threat

Aitor Karanka has warned his Middlesbrough players to avoid complacency when they face injury-ravaged Hull City at the Riverside Stadium on Monday.

After making a poor start to the campaign Boro have improved of late, beating Bournemouth and losing narrowly to leaders Chelsea, as well as securing impressive draws at Arsenal, Manchester City and Leicester City.

In contrast the Tigers have plunged down the table after making a good start to the season and Mike Phelan is having to contend with several long-term injuries to key players – including Will Keane, Alex Bruce and Moses Odubajo.

In addition, Sam Clucas is suspended for the trip to Teesside, but Karanka thinks Hull could be on a high after knocking Newcastle United out of the EFL Cup last week.

The Boro boss is taking nothing for granted, saying: "They have had injuries but they are in a good moment having reached the semi-final and they are only one point below us.

"We know them from last season but it is going to be a completely different game. We have to avoid complacency thinking we are playing really well or we are playing at home against Hull who have a lot of injuries.

"We have to forget everything and only think that we have a tough game and an important game, and just focus on us."

George Friend remains sidelined for Boro with a knee injury so former Manchester United star Fabio is expected to continue at full-back.

Middlesbrough, 1/2000 to be relegated this season, can be backed at 5/1 to beat Hull 1-0 on Monday with Alvaro Negredo 6/5 to score at any time in the match.