THERE may still be 12 definitive matches left for Middlesbrough to realise their automatic promotion dreams, but some games are bigger than others.
This is something that Aitor Karanka knows only too well with the Boro head coach having labelled the leaders’ next four assigments as “massive” – and it is not hard to see what has shaped his thinking.
Boro start today with a trip to the City Ground and they do not have to contend just with rejuvenated hosts but also with an awful record at a real bogey venue – the Teessiders have won there just once in the League in their past 20 visits.
A week today, Boro will host promotion rivals Ipswich, who beat them convincingly at Portman Road, ahead of a crunch away double-header at Derby County and Bournemouth.
Karanka said: “Of course, the following four games are massive for us.
“But if you see the fixtures, everybody has difficult fixtures. Everybody has to play teams at the top of the table, so we have to think about ourselves and the Nottingham game and after that we have one week to prepare for the other three games.
“It’s normal that they think about those games, but we can win three games in a row and arrive at Bournemouth top of the table with five or six points ahead of third position and we can lose those three games and we can be two points below the play-off position.
“The players know my philosophy and mentality and we don’t win anything thinking about the games against Ipswich, Derby and Bournemouth now.
“The win over Millwall on Tuesday was huge because if we had lost that game we would have been under pressure, but we won. We have three more points and one less game to go, so it is good for everybody.”