Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka acknowledges that Monday night’s home Premier League clash with Hull City is a real six-pointer.
And the Spaniard hopes that his men can maintain the form shown in recent weeks to pick up a precious win.
Boro go into the game a point above the Tigers, who are in third-bottom spot.
“It’s an important game as Hull and us share the same target – to be in the Premier League next season,” said Karanka.
“We are in December and it’s an important game. but we can’t drive ourselves crazy thinking it’s a final.
“We have to focus on the way we are performing as if we can play against really good teams and should have won, we have to keep playing in the same way at home.”
Hull are struggling with injuries, but Karanka does not believe that makes the game any easier for the Teessiders.
He said: “They have injuries but are in a good moment, in the semi-finals (of the EFL Cup) and one point below us.
“We know from last season it’ll be a difficult game. We have to avoid the risk of complacency thinking we’ve been playing well or that Hull have injuries.
“We have to think it’ll be a tough game and focus on us.”
Karanka is pleased with left-back George Friend’s recovery from a knee problem, but he looks certain to miss out on Monday night.
“As everybody expected, George is going really quick,” Karanka said.
“He’s the kind of player who wants to play the following day.
“But we have to keep calm. He’s doing really well, but I think another week or two at least.”
Fabio will continue at left-back
Fit-again centre-back Dani Ayala is available to return following an ankle injury, but Karanka would not be drawn on a role.
“Dani is training with the team and he is ready, it’s just my decision,” Karanka said.
“I have to take it all in and we will see.”