Friday 23 March 2018

Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka not playing for a point

Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka is hoping his side can cope with the pressure against Brighton on Saturday.
Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka is hoping his side can cope with the pressure against Brighton on Saturday.

Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka says the fact his side need only a draw to book their place back in the Barclays Premier League could count against them in their crucial Championship decider against Brighton.

The two clubs go into the game locked together on 88 points knowing only one of them can secure the second automatic promotion slot behind Burnley - and Boro's better goal difference means a point would work in their favour.

But Karanka, whose side have limped towards the end-of-season climax by drawing their last three games, warned of the consequences if his side go into the game against Chris Hughton's men with a point in mind.

Karanka said: "I don't know how to prepare for a game to draw. It's difficult to go to the pitch thinking a draw is good because my experience tells me that when you go to the pitch thinking to draw the game you are going to lose.

"So for that reason I am preparing to try to beat Brighton knowing it is going to be a tough game because more than three points is at stake."

All sorts of pressure will be swilling around the Riverside Stadium with accountants Deloitte predicting this week the winners will earn an immediate cash boost of around £170million.

And Hughton, whose side have barged back into the automatic promotion picture by winning seven of their last nine games, sought to deflect some of that back onto the hosts.

"Sometimes the position we're in (compared to Middlesbrough), can be the better situation," insisted Hughton.

"We are not frightened by the challenge, they are favourites being at home, and we will have to do something to win it.

"For us, the facts are simple, they are a very good team and if we don't play well then we will find it difficult to win the game."

Karanka is unsure over the fitness of George Friend, who has missed his side's last two games after picking up a hamstring injury in the draw at Burnley last month.

Meanwhile Brighton will be without suspended defender Lewis Dunk, so club captain Gordon Greer is set to make his first appearance since January at centre-half.

Burnley know victory - and most likely a point - will be enough to secure them the Championship title as they travel to already-relegated Charlton.

The Clarets, who have no new injury worries, go into the game looking to extend a 22-match unbeaten run and wrap up their swift return to the Premier League in style.

Elsewhere there are no other issues still to address on the Championship's final day, with Milton Keynes Dons and Bolton already consigned to the drop alongside the Addicks.

Barring either Middlesbrough or Brighton, the play-off order is also confirmed, with Sheffield Wednesday awaiting the team that comes up short at the Riverside, and fourth-placed Hull facing a trip to Derby for the season-ending knockout.

Press Association

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