Aitor Karanka positive over Middlesbrough promotion hopes

FITNESS DOUBT: Leading Boro scorer Patrick Bamford
FITNESS DOUBT: Leading Boro scorer Patrick Bamford

AITOR Karanka is not bereft of belief, as he eyes up one final assault on automatic promotion to the Premier League this weekend.

Middlesbrough travel to the capital to face Fulham (kick off 3pm), level on points with second-placed Bournemouth

I have believed since I started work here 18 months ago

AITOR KARANKA

Boro are third in the table due to the Cherries’ superior goal difference.

League leaders Watford are only a point better off, while Norwich - who Boro beat 1-0 last Friday - are a single point behind Boro.

It means that after Bournemouth’s game against Bolton on Monday the table could very feasibly have a different look to it, with Boro’s prospects of residing in the top-two strengthened, weakened or unchanged.

Karanka, who dominated his weekly media conference with positive words, says that the game is the club’s biggest since their demotion from the top flight six years ago.

“It’s the most important game in five, six years because we are playing to get promotion,” he said.

“I have believed since I started work here 18 months ago.

“I took this job because I felt that the chairman was completely committed, I felt the people who work in the club were completely committed and now I feel the fans are committed too.

“They (the players) are playing their best and for me are amazing.

“They deserve to get promotion because they are very good.”

The Spaniard has frequently cast back to the summer to remind fans and pundits alike that the Riverside outfit were, at best, meant to achieve a play-off place, not be in the automatic promotion mix.

This week he compared the pre-season expectations of opponents Fulham to explain how his side - united with an enviable team spirit - have exceeded even their own aspirations.

He explained: “The best example (of team spirit) is to look at the squads on Saturday.

“Fulham made a very high investment at the beginning of the season and paid more than £10million for Ross McCormack. We spent some pounds on Adam Forshaw at the beginning of January.

“But at the beginning they had very high investment and now we are playing to get (to the) top of the table and they are playing for nothing.

“It’s nice and I think it shows everybody the spirit of the team.

“At the beginning I had players coming here who in the past had earned a lot of money and now I have players coming here because they trust the future, trust the club.

“The main thing for me is that the players are all ready and they all know that they can play whenever I need them.”

Boro are sweating on the fitness of leading scorer Patrick Bamford, who hobbled through the 1-0 win over Norwich seven days ago with an ankle problem.