MIDDLESBROUGH will not slip up against promotion rivals Norwich City tonight (kick off 7.45pm) – because they won’t be asleep.
Crucial defeats to Bournemouth (3-0) and Watford (2-0) in the past month could prove costly to Boro’s bid for automatic promotion, with the Cherries now two points better off than fourth-placed Boro who are a point adrift of the Hornets in second.
I am very, very confident after our game on Tuesday when the team played at its bestAITOR KARANKA
Those losses were noon kick-offs and head coach Aitor Karanka has claimed that his players perform better the later they start.
“Both games had a lot of similarities because they were earlier kick offs and we were top of the table,” Karanka said.
“After those games we have now learned what time is better for us because we prefer to play at night rather than in the morning.
“As a player I played better at night. You have more rest (playing at night).
“In the morning you have the sun and at early kick offs you can still be asleep.”
Only two games remain after tonight’s encounter and only by returning three points to Teesside can Boro go into the final matches still harbouring hopes of automatic promotion.
The Spaniard said: “Both of us need three points. The loser can forget about automatic promotion but the winner isn’t going to be in the Premier League yet, for sure.
“Everybody is expecting each other to lose one game but no one is losing.
“With two games to go, four points below the promotion positions is going to be very difficult.
“It is a race between four teams for two positions so everyone needs to win these games.
“I think 90 points will be enough but 86 points (Boro are on 81 points) and we could be in the Premier League. We have to keep fighting for every point.”
So with a an additional seven-and-a-half-hours to prepare and have a siesta, can Boro’s players beat the Canaries and keep alive their automatic promotion hopes?
“I am very, very confident after our game on Tuesday (2-1 win against Wolves) when the team played at its best,” Karanka buzzed.
“Norwich are a Premier League team and they are doing a very good second round of the season.
“We have to play at least with the same intensity that we played with against Wolves in the first 45 minutes but for 90 minutes against Norwich.
“We are going there to win the game but on Saturday night maybe a draw could be massive.
“In this league you never know.”
Dani Ayala, Jonathan Woodgate and Albert Adomah all didn’t train before the squad flew to Norfolk yesterday but all are expected to feature.