Middlesbrough’s interim head coach Steve Agnew is determined to ignore the doom-mongers who predict his side are destined for a quick return to the Championship after just one season in the top-flight.
Boro’s midweek defeat at Hull left them seven points from safety with just eight games to go as they head into their crucial Riverside Stadium clash with Burnley.
But Agnew insists belief levels have not dipped since he replaced Aitor Karanka in charge last month - and that the united front they forged during last season’s promotion campaign can serve them well.
Agnew said: “I have enough intelligence to know what is being written and I understand that. But at times like this my full focus is on preparing for Burnley and nothing is going to get in the way of that.
“The fighting spirit is still there and the fighting spirit within this group when we won promotion this season will be very evident on the pitch.
“We have had a good meeting and the players are very positive towards the work we’ve got to do.
“I’m confident because not only will three points move us closer to the rest but if the results go our way then that puts pressure on the other teams around us.”
Boro’s defeat at the KC Stadium extended their winless top-flight run to 13 games and made it imperative that Agnew’s men find a way to capitalise on the notorious travel sickness afflecting the Clarets this season.
Agnew added: “We know exactly where we are (in the table) and we have to set up to win the game.
“There are no other targets other than tomorrow’s game.
“Of course it’s been frustrating because I know how much work has gone in behind the scenes.
“Everybody deserves a victory and I’m sure with that little bit of luck we’ll get the points we need
“The players understand the importance of the game and what they need to do. If they carry out the game-plan and they remain stable and see it through, then I am very, very confident.”
Boro’s quest is hampered by the loss of Fabio da Silva, George Friend and Calum Chambers still ruled out and Gaston Ramirez facing a late fitness test.
The midfielder trained this week after missing Hull with an ankle problem, and Agnew will make a late decision on his fitness.
Boro: Valdes, Guzan, Barragan, Gibson, Espinosa, Ayala, Husband, Fry, De Roon, Clayton, Forshaw, Leadbitter, Guedioura, Downing, Stuani, Traore, Fischer, Ramirez, Negredo, Gestede, Bamford.