Aitor Karanka has said not playing for the past fortnight has been good for Middlesbrough as it has allowed them to regroup following a turbulent week prior to the international break.
Boro signed off before the international fixtures with a dramatic 1-0 win at home to promotion rivals Hull City, but that win was preceded by a week of uncertainty, when Karanka walked out of a training ground meeting and appeared to be on his way out of the Riverside for good.
But problems were patched up and during the break relationships were repaired, readying Boro for their final nine games of the season which will determine if they will gain promotion to the Premier League or not.
Their first test comes tonight away to Queens Park Rangers (kick-off 7.45pm) where a draw or a win will elevate them into second place in the Championship.
“A few things had happened (before the break), so for that reason the break was good,” Karanka said.
“We have had two weeks to work on the training ground.
“The Hull game was massive for us.
“It was three points and the way in which we got it was massive for us, and now we are really good and excited about the future.
“The week before Hull, I said we are in a really good position, we have better players, more experience and one more point that last season.
“We are in a better position, but we are in the Championship and you have to fight for every point and in every single game.
“It’s good (that there are eight games in April) because we knew this at the beginning of the season and in January so we were prepared.
“All of the players are fit and ready to play.”
The test of QPR is somewhat more difficult than it would have been just a few months ago, with former Boro striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink reversing fortunes at the Loftus Road club since his mid-season arrival from Burton Albion.
The Londoners have an outside chance of the play-offs and will not succumb easily to Boro pressure.
“It’s different to before – they are organised, Jimmy is doing a really good job and their last games have been good,” Karanka added to www.mfc.co.uk.
“It will be a tough game.
“But we have to look at ourselves, as always.
“We know we have one month in front of us and the first step is tonight against QPR.”