Middlesbrough v Nottingham Forest: Boro chief Karanka turns the tables on Burnley

AITOR KARANKA insists that all the pressure is on the chasing Championship pack '“ and has scoffed at talk that Boro are saddled under a weight of pressure to get promoted.

Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka

The Teessiders suffered a first league defeat since November 7 in last weekend’s last-gasp 1-0 loss at managerless Bristol City – with the shock loss proving food for thought for many observers who had tipped Karanka’s side to race away with the title.

Hull’s emphatic 6-0 drubbing of Charlton cut Boro’s lead to two points with a game in hand, with Burnley also back on the scene in joint third after a 3-1 win over Brentford.

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Clarets midfielder Joey Barton also upped the ante this week, suggesting that expectations were heightened for Boro to deliver promotion this term because they, along with Derby and Hull, were spending more than others at the top end of the division.

However, Karanka believes it is Barton’s own club who should be feeling the heat as they trail the leaders by seven points, and that gap will become 10 if Boro win prior to Derby’s visit to Burnley on Monday night.

“This season we’ve spent money, but it’s not just us.

“Last season Burnley spent money, this season they’ve spent money, and they are going to spend more money.

“The pressure is for them that they’re seven points behind us. I think they forget the money that they are spending. They just know the money that the other teams are spending.”

Boro host in-form Forest, who are unbeaten in 11 matches.

The Teessiders secured a rare victory at the City Ground in the autumn and are chasing a first double over Forest since 1955-56.

Reports in London suggest QPR have rejected a £6m bid from Boro for winger Matt Phillips.

Despite the snub, Rangers are believed to be receptive to business if a higher offer is tabled. Phillips has been a key figure at Loftus Road, scoring five goals in 24 outings.

Boro are continuing to be strongly linked with Fulham marksman Ross McCormack.