Aitor Karanka admits that Fulham's position in the Sky Bet Championship table is a surprise to him given the level of talent within Slaven Jovanovic's squad.

This weekend's opponents are down in 18th, but Cottagers manager Jovanovic guided Watford to promotion last season and Karanka has paid tribute to his opposite number ahead of the London trip. 

"Their position is a surprise because they have really good players and now a really good manager," said Karanka.

"He got promotion with Watford and is now improving their team. For that reason I know it's going to be a tough game."

Fulham are one of the top scoring sides in the division - having scored 51 - with strikers Ross McCormack and Moussa Dembele having bagged a joint total 30 goals.

"Ross is one of the best players in the league," said Karanka. "I've been here for two years and whenever I've seen him, he's dangerous.

"But he's not alone. They have Dembele and they have others. It's good for us that Fernando (Amorebieta) can't play as well because we know all about how good he can be."

Boro, who will be without the injured Daniel Ayala once again along with the suspended Adam Clayton, drew 0-0 with Fulham at the Riverside earlier this season and were beaten 4-3 in a dramatic game at Craven Cottage last April

Karanka insists his side have learnt from last season, but is wary of a Fulham side who he believes are under no pressure this weekend.

"It was tough when we played them at home in October and hard when we played there last season," said the Boro Head Coach. 

"They have no pressure on them and we felt that last season. They were playing for nothing and when they were winning 3-1 it was easy for them and they showed how good they are.

"They are in a no pressure position now and for that reason we know they are a good side."