Aitor Karanka knows he will have to be ruthless in his team selection ahead of Middlesbrough’s Premier League clash with Tottenham Hotspur at the Riverside Stadium on Saturday if he is to halt a run of four winless matches.
Middlesbrough come into this tie in 13th place on the back of a 3-1 loss to Everton, a 2-1 reverse against Crystal Palace, and a 0-0 draw with West Brom, after being eliminated from the EFL Cup in extra-time to Championship side Fulham.
While the former Real Madrid assistant boss has a near fully-fit squad to choose from, with Cristhian Stuani (groin) and Jordan Rhodes (knee) both returning, he looks set to make a few difficult selection decisions.
Midfielder Adam Clayton is one such player whose performances have come under scrutiny, after being a virtual ever-present in the Boro team since joining the club in 2014, and was benched for the Everton clash.
Ahead of this weekend's tie, Karanka said: "It was not difficult as I don’t think about Clayton, I think about how good the team is, how good the team who will play is.
"Yes (they are tough decisions), all of us have to be ready. It was nice in the Championship but we can’t live in the same way that we did last season. Now the games are arriving quickly, and last week was Everton, this week is Tottenham, and I have to pick the best XI every single game."
Tottenham, meanwhile, are well and truly flying in third place. with their only defeat this season coming against Monaco in the Champions League.
They come into this match fresh from a 5-0 thrashing of Gillingham in the League Cup with a virtual second-string side.
And while only Grant Leadbitter and Fabio are currently injured for Boro, Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino must do without Harry Kane (ankle) and Danny Rose (hamstring), while Mousa Dembele and Eric Dier will be assessed ahead of the match after struggling with cramp.
Dutch striker Vincent Janssen, who bagged his first Spurs goal from the penalty spot against the Gills, is expected to start ahead of the injured Kane.
Pochettino said: "This is a big opportunity for him to show what he can do and he has to be ready now that Harry is injured, and the damage is done. There is scope for him to play more from the start.
"He's athletic, he's very competitive, his mentality is very good. He's a very nice guy but he's very strong, he likes to work very hard. It's very good."
Karanka concluded: "They [the squad] are all fit except Grant Leadbitter and Fabio. They are both also close to starting with the team. I’m really pleased because I’ve almost got all of my squad ready to play."
In the past, Boro have beaten Tottenham nine times in the league, with only Manchester City picking up more wins against Spurs.