MANAGER Aitor Karanka urged Middlesbrough to build upon back-to-back home wins in their glamour FA Cup tie with Manchester City.
Patrick Bamford and Lee Tomlin grabbed the goals as Boro rose to second in the Sky Bet Championship with a 2-1 triumph over Cardiff.
The home side did have to survive a scare after Kenwyne Jones’ 86th-minute goal but, having overcame Huddersfield 2-0 on Saturday, they held on the secure another crucial three points.
That delighted Karanka, who is already relishing the prospect of another mouth-watering contest for a team narrowly beaten 14-13 in an astonishing Capital One Cup penalty shootout at Liverpool earlier this season.
He said: “I am looking forward to it. We are going to go to that game in the best shape.
“We have had six points from our last two games, but it will be a very big challenge.
“All the players will want to play well and they will want to play like they did against Liverpool.
“Man City are very impressive. Their squad, I watched the draw and I looked at his squad, they have amazing players.
“They have one of the best squads in the league (but) sometimes surprises can happen.”
More pressing for Karanka in the overall picture is Middlesbrough’s Championship campaign.
Victory at the Riverside on Tuesday night put the Teesside club in the automatic promotion places, although the chasing pack have a game in hand.
He said: “I said we needed six points (in our two home games). It is important to have six points in the two games at home.
“We have a good game on Saturday to look forward to but the six points are in our possession. That’s the main thing.
“We have two weeks now until the next league game. We can now focus on the cup game.”
Boro’s fortunes are in stark contrast to those being endured by Cardiff, who have won just one of their last eight league encounters.
Boro enjoyed the brighter start, with Kike and Grant Leadbitter going close during the opening exchanges.
The hosts were adamant they should have had a penalty after 16 minutes when Kike went down under a challenge from Cardiff goalkeeper Simon Moore.
The Bluebirds came back into the game as the half worse on, albeit without creating any real clear-cut opportunities.
Indeed, chances were at a premium over the remainder of the half, Bamford coming the closest as his scuffed effort missed the target.
Boro again looked the stronger team after the interval, although Cardiff’s Kadeem Harris was unlucky to be denied by a fine Dimi Konstantopoulos save.
And that miss was to prove costly as Boro took the lead soon after, Bamford ending a fine move by firing home.
Middlesbrough calmed noticeably thereafter and almost grabbed a second when Kike nodded just wide from Bamford’s superb ball.
The Spaniard continued to threaten, too, and once again was close to finding the net when Moore intervened with the striker bearing down on goal.
Still the home side pressed forward in search of another, with Reach threatening before substitute Albert Adomah cleverly worked an opening and forced Moore into a save.
A couple more chances fell their way until Tomlin finally appeared to settle the nerves.
Another lovely move proved pivotal, with Adam Clayton and Adam Reach paving the way form Tomlin to double the advantage confidently.
Jones then threatened to flip the script with a close-range finish, but Boro held on to secure the points and pile the pressure on leaders Bournemouth.
Middlesbrough: Konstantopoulos, Kalas (Whitehead 90), Gibson, Ayala, Friend, Clayton, Leadbitter, Tomlin (Vossen 85), Bamford, Reach, Garcia (Adomah 74). Subs Not Used: Ledesma, Husband, Woodgate, Mejias. Booked: Clayton, Leadbitter, Vossen. Goals: Bamford 63, Tomlin 79.
Cardiff: Moore, Brayford, Morrison, Turner, Connolly, Adeyemi (Ralls 77), Gunnarsson, Whittingham, Noone (Macheda 87), Harris, Revell (Jones 67). Subs Not Used: Da Silva, Le Fondre, John, Wilson. Booked: Brayford. Goals: Jones 86.
Att: 16,035 Ref: Geoff Eltringham