Middlesbrough can put some distance between themselves and their promotion rivals on Saturday, and Boro boss Aitor Karanka believes all the pressure is on the chasing pack.
This week Burnley midfielder Joey Barton suggested that expectations were heightened for Middlesbrough to deliver promotion this term because they, along with Derby and Hull, were spending more than others at the top end of the division.
The pressure is for them that they’re seven points behind usAitor Karanka
However Karanka, whose team host Nottingham Forest on Saturday, believes it is Barton’s own club who should be feeling the heat as they trail the leaders by seven points, and that gap will become 10 points if Boro win prior to Derby’s visit to Burnley on Monday night.
“This season we’ve spent money, but it’s not just us,” Karanka said.
“Last season (Burnley) spent money, this season they’ve spent money, and they are going to spend more money.
“The pressure is for them that they’re seven points behind us. I think they forget the money that they are spending. They just know the money that the other teams are spending.”
Second-placed Hull would also increase their gap over the Rams and Clarets with three points at Fulham.
The Tigers kick off a run of four successive away games at Craven Cottage after winning just once on the road since early November.
“Our home form has been terrific and if that stays solid, it will always give us a chance,” manager Steve Bruce said on Hull’s official website. “If we can improve away from home, which is our aim, then we’ll have an even better chance.”
Brighton will move into third with victory over in-form Huddersfield, while sixth-placed Sheffield Wednesday, boosted by the permanent arrival of Gary Hooper on Friday, visit Reading.
At the other end of the table, Bolton play fellow strugglers MK Dons at the Macron Stadium aiming to string back-to-back wins together for the first since since December 2014.
Wanderers defeated Eastleigh in an FA Cup replay on Tuesday but have had more torrid news off the field since, and striker Shola Ameobi wants to deliver some positive headlines before leaving when his contract expires.
“If we can win two games in a row that would give us a massive boost, that builds momentum,” the departing 34-year-old said.
“Nothing is better for a team than winning games and the confidence that that brings. Turn it the other way - losing games, you lose confidence so easily in this league. It’s a pivotal moment in the season for us.”
Bolton could even move off the bottom of the table if Charlton’s poor run continues against Blackburn, while Bristol City and Rotherham will hope to pick up points on the road at Leeds and Cardiff respectively.
Elsewhere, Mick McCarthy, fresh from signing a new deal at Ipswich, takes his team to Birmingham, QPR host Wolves at lunchtime and Simon Grayson’s Preston host Dean Smith’s Brentford.