IT is being dubbed as the week that Middlesbrough’s promotion aspirations are hugely dependent on.
Ipswich Town at the Riverside tomorrow (kick off 12.15pm), a visit to Derby on Tuesday and then a trip to face current table-toppers Bournemouth next Saturday. All three promotion rivals and nine points to take from them.
Boro head coach Aitor Karanka says that he knows “everyone’s excited as we have three important games”, but, in his usual idiom, he insists that his “high focus is on the Ipswich game”.
Boro can ill-afford to think beyond the test with Mick McCarthy’s Tractor Boys, who beat Boro 2-0 back in December and are trying to resurrect their flailing promotion hopes after a stuttering few weeks.
“My biggest concern is to prepare as best as possible for the first game,” said Karanka.
“I can’t prepare for Ipswich properly if I am thinking about Bournemouth seven days later.
“It is going to be difficult because they are they seventh and we have to beat them if we want to do something good.”
Reflecting on the defeat at Portman Road, the Spaniard learned that his players, though short of their usual performance and at the time stating it was a season-worst display, can beat any team in the Championship should they abide by pre-game expectations.
“That game, I learned that we have to play with at least the same intensity as they play because if you go to the pitch and the other team are playing with more intensity it is difficult to beat them,” Karanka added to BBC Tees.
“At least if we go with the same intensity we (know we) can play.
“If we play the same intensity as them we can beat them for sure.”
Boro have enjoyed a rare week on the Rockliffe Park training pitch after the recent hectic fixture schedule precluded quality preparation time.
The heavy run of games has coincided with the Teessiders losing three of their last five games, though Karanka is hopeful that their dip in form has been corrected this week.
He said: “After last month, with nine games in a month, it was very difficult for everybody and we have a team which needs to train on the (training) pitch.
“I felt we had lost our intensity as with a lot games you can’t train on the pitch.
“It is true we made changes, but it’s difficult to play with the same intensity and this week working on the pitch at Rockliffe has been very good.”