Why Aitor Karanka believes Middlesbrough's Wembley heartache can aid them against Brighton
Having been one game away from the Premier League last year, Aitor Karanka is confident that his MIddlesbrough players will use that disappointment to their advantage in tomorrow's promotion decider with Brighton.
Boro, second in the table, host third-placed Brighton in the final game of the season where a win or draw – because of their better goal difference – would send them up to the top flight.
Beaten finalists in the play-offs just less than 12 months ago, Karanka believes that his team – of whom he has known his starting XI all week – are more prepared for the clash with the Seagulls than they were for the defeat to Norwich at Wembley.
“The first week or month after the play-off final, people were saying the team who had lost the final would struggle the next year,” he said.
“But I said that the final was good for us because everybody arrived ready to fight again.
“I said the last month that we have better players, more experience.
“Last season was a good lesson for everybody. Last season we lost the final because we weren’t ready.
“I don’t want to say we are ready, because I don’t know, but we are more mature and have better players.”
The Spaniard, in his third season on Riverside, understands that the game’s importance makes his preparation even tougher, saying “I try to do everything I usually do, but this isn’t a normal game.
“I can be calm because they (the players) are calm.
“We couldn’t win the last three games but if you analyse those games we were better than Burnley, Ipswich and Birmingham.”
Brighton, however, are harder matches than the aforementioned three, with the Seagulls defying pre-season expectactions to be a win away from the top-flight.
“You can imagine how dangerous they are when they are 13 games unbeaten,” Karanka said of the challenge.
“They are an amazing team and Chris Hughton has done an amazing job.
“But we have the game at home and once again I am calm because the players make me calm.”
Should Boro end their seven-year stay in the Champoinship, it will be richly deserved to several people, according to Karanka.
“The three who deserve promotion are the chairman, the players and the crowd.
“Everyone knows how important the chairman is and I have players who have been here since the beginning.”