Aitor Karanka

Getty Images

Aitor Karanka leaves Nottingham Forest after one year

Leave a comment

After just one year at the club, Nottingham Forest has released manager Aitor Karanka despite the club challenging near the top of the Championship table. According to a statement by the club, Karanka “asked to be released from his contract” and was granted his wish.

Forest currently sits seventh in the Championship standings, just four points back of the playoff positions and 12 points behind leaders Leeds United. They are also coming off a 4-2 win over Leeds that saw the team fight back from a one-goal deficit.

However, before that result the club had gone five matches without a win, allowing the teams in playoff positions to build a slight cushion.

According to many reports around the club, Karanka was clashing with ownership and the front office, and according to Sky Sports, Karanka became fed up with “outside influence disrupting his day-to-day team management.” Sky also states that the 45-year-old Spaniard “felt the lack of stability, control and constant speculation was affecting the club’s progress and players’ mentality.” That latter part could be in reference to heavy speculation surrounding his job status throughout December.

Karanka came to Nottingham Forest from Middlesbrough where he managed through a season of promotion to the Premier League followed by a relegation campaign that led to his departure in March of 2016 with the club in the bottom three, a position they would not recover from. He joined Forest in January of 2018 with the club in 14th position, and they would finish in 17th last year.

Karanka is known for bringing defensive tactical strength to his squad, but as a result, they often lack in attacking threat. The club has conceded 29 goals in 26 Championship matches this season, the sixth-best defensive record in the league, but they have 12 draws so far, the most in the league, and have won back-to-back Championship matches just once all year.

His departure means Nottingham Forest will begin to search for its 11th permanent manager since 2011, a notoriously high rate of turnover that is beginning to upset club supporters.

Top Premier League Storylines – Week 29

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Premier League this weekend sees a number of teams come back from European play – some empty-handed, some with injuries, and some with momentum.

With the stretch run on hand, it’s looking less likely that anyone will catch Chelsea, but the top of the table is still clogged below the Blues, and the relegation race is heating up as teams rise and fall in the maelstrom at the bottom.

Week 29, what do you have in store for us?


Leicester City goes for 3 in a row

West Ham United vs. Leicester City — 11 a.m. EDT Saturday online via NBCSports.com

Craig Shakespeare has completely turned around Leicester City, and the Foxes are on their way back up the table. Still, all three have come at King Power Stadium, and now Leicester hits the road for the first time in the league in nearly a month. Winning away in the Premier League is a completely different animal, and it’s something the Foxes haven’t done in at all in Premier League play this season, and haven’t done in any competition since January in FA Cup play.

They’ll have an excellent chance against a West Ham side that has just a single win since selling Dimitri Payet in the winter, and hasn’t won at home since beating Crystal Palace on January 14th. Can Shakespeare dial up a road win and keep the momentum flying?

Will Liverpool or Manchester City score an important leg up?

Manchester City vs. Liverpool — 12:30 p.m. EDT Sunday on NBCSN or online via NBCSports.com

A massive top four matchup pits two teams looking to score any kind of advantage near the top of the table. The title race seems lost, but the Champions League race is still open and both these teams could look to pull away from the pack slightly. This has draw written all over it, but should one team come out on top, they would be an important three points earned.

Manchester City especially needs to bounce back after they were dumped out of the Champions League in a wild thriller against Monaco. Pep Guardiola was criticized for his team selection in that one, and the players admitted they were unable to carry out his orders, especially in the first half when Monaco overran the City midfield. Now, against a Liverpool side that put its ugly January in the rear-view mirror, City must bounce back itself.

How will Lukaku and Barkley play amid transfer rumors?

Everton vs. Hull City — 8:30 a.m. EDT Saturday on NBCSN or online via NBCSports.com

Rumors have swirled this week regarding two of Everton’s most visable players, and it will be very interesting to see how they respond in front of the home fans at Goodison Park — and how the home fans respond to them. The biggest rumors have suggested that Romelu Lukaku has refused to sign a new contract with the Toffees, and could leave in the summer if no deal is agreed to by then. The loss of Lukaku would be a gigantic blow to Ronald Koeman and Everton, as the Belgian has been a constant supply of goals up front.

Ross Barkley remains in the same boat, and while nothing as defiant as Lukaku’s refusal has come from Barkley’s situation, there is still no new contract for the 23-year-old Everton youth product, and Koeman admitted he could lose Barkley as well if nothing is agreed to by the summer. As Everton battles for a Europa League place, will they get their superstars’ best?

Middlesbrough plays (Pogba-less?) Manchester United without a manager

Middlesbrough vs. Manchester United — 8:00 p.m. EDT Sunday on NBCSN or online via NBCSports.com

It’s not confirmed yet, but watching Paul Pogba limp off with what appeared to be a hamstring problem against FC Rostov, it’s highly possible that Manchester United will be without big signing Paul Pogba this weekend against a team fighting for its life.

Middlesbrough parted ways with Aitor Karanka earlier Thursday, and Steve Agnew will be in charge when they welcome the Red Devils to Riverside Stadium on Sunday. With both teams facing adversity, which will gain massively important points? Manchester United sits just a point back of Arsenal for 5th position, while Middlesbrough is three points in the hole in the drop. Who will come away with the good stuff?

Aitor Karanka, Middlesbrough part ways

Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Aitor Karanka is out at Middlesbrough, and Steve Agnew is in, as the Premier League’s 19th place side announced Thursday that the manager and club have mutually decided to part ways.

The Middlesbrough boss, 43, led the club to the promotion playoff final in 2015 before qualifying the club for the Premier League with a runner-up finish one season later.

[ USMNT: Arena names roster ahead of WCQs ]

Boro spent the first month of its campaign in the top half, but steadily dropped before entering the drop zone after the last match day. From MFC.co.uk:

“I’d like to thank Middlesbrough for a wonderful opportunity and the players, staff and all the people at the club who I have worked with. I’d also like to thank the fans for their support. This club will always hold a special place for me and I wish everyone connected with Middlesbrough Football Club the very best for the future.”

Karanka clashed with the team toward the end of last season, and seemingly called out players like Stuart Downing after Sunday’s FA Cup quarterfinal loss to Manchester City in saying he wasn’t starting players who didn’t have enough desire. The pair was said to have a training ground fight last week.

A longtime Jose Mourinho ally who played 28 times for the Colorado Rapids in 2006, Karanka led one of the stingiest teams in the Premier League (Their 30 goals allowed is tied for fifth-fewest with Everton). But Boro could hardly score, their 19 league goals five less than the second-worst attack.

Premier League Preview: Crystal Palace vs. Middlesbrough

Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images
Leave a comment
  • Palace leads all-time 18W-12D-17L
  • Palace won 2-1 on Sept. 16
  • Second PL meeting since 2005

Two relegation-battling sides just three points apart meet Saturday at Selhurst Park when Middlesbrough visits Crystal Palace (Watch live at 10 a.m. EDT on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com).

Wins have been hard to come by for both sides, and Boro enters the day in 16th place with 22 points. That’s three ahead of the 19th place Eagles.

Palace boss Sam Allardyce made more waves this week when he ripped into his players for not following his directions. The Eagles have a single PL win since a 3-0 home win over Southampton on Dec. 3.

Middlesbrough hasn’t won a Premier League match since Dec. 17, its only 2017 victories coming in three FA Cup wins. Still, Boro has proven stingy in engineering four draws. Aitor Karanka‘s side just needs more goals.

What they’re saying

Boro’s Karanka on not overdramatizing the match: “I can’t forget how well the team is doing so far, and we need to keep going in the same way. It is the biggest game because it is the next game. It is against a direct opponent but we will not be taking this game as a final. We can take heart from our previous games and performances. With our consistency and intensity we always have a chance.”

Palace boss Sam Allardyce rips his players“My experience and my qualifications are far greater than theirs. They can talk about tactics and systems, that’s fine, but they’re players are they’re paid to play. I’m the manager, and the system and tactics are my expertise, not theirs.”

Prediction

Boro’s defense has been strong, and Palace’s strength comes from its attack. We bet Alvaro Negredo will find his way to the score sheet, but that the Eagles find a way through as well. 1-1.

Boro rejects Leicester bid for Ramirez; Karanka frustrated

Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka had the press conference of the day in the Premier League.

Karanka admitted that he’s hoping to convince former Real Madrid attacker and current PSG man Jese Rodriguez to join Boro on loan.

[ REPORT: Celtic reject Chelsea bid ]

He also revealed that Gaston Ramirez handed in a transfer request, and that Boro has rejected a bid from Leicester City for the Uruguayan.

Then he proceeded with the hot takes, from The Express:

“It’s more than difficult, it’s frustrating because he was calling us to play here last season. He played his best last season, he went back to the national team again playing with us and to have this situation is frustrating as a coach and as a person.”

Karanka says Boro will not sell Ramirez if an acceptable bid doesn’t materialize, and that he has no hesitation to play the player.
Ramirez has been a combustible figure, once reportedly ripping up his Southampton contract in a desire to leave the club. We’re with Karanka here.