Middlesbrough return after the international break with nine games remaining this season. David Nugent’s 90th minute winner against Hull means Boro are five points off top spot in the table and a point behind second-placed Brighton when the Championship resumes.
Boro boss Aitor Karanka has now confirmed that his future will be at the Riverside Stadium. The Spaniard did not take charge of the North East club’s trip to Charlton earlier this month and that row clearly had a negative effect on the team as they were beaten 2-0 by the Championship strugglers at the Valley.
Now that Karanka has committed himself to the club, it gives Boro the best chance of gaining automatic promotion in the Premier League ahead of the new television deal which is expected to be worth up to £100 million for clubs next season.
The Boro faithful have been right behind Karanka; even during the game against Charlton as the visiting fans were singing the Spaniards name behind the goal in the away stand at the Valley.
This month has not been great for Boro as they have lost three of their five games, with defeats coming against Rotherham, Blackburn and Charlton, three sides at the wrong end of the table in the Championship. However, they did beat Wolves and ended the month with three points against Hull who are directly below Boro in the table in what was a crucial game in both sides’ bid for automatic promotion.
Middlesbrough have five home games to look forward to at the Riverside Stadium following the international break. Karanka will be keen to make their home stadium a fortress for those ties as a strong atmosphere will help the home side pick up as many points as possible in their promotion push.
On paper their next four home games against Huddersfield, Preston, Reading and Brighton all look winnable. Their final league fixtures in front of their home crowd will come up against Brighton which could turn into a decider for one of the two promotion spots.
Boro had a fantastic 3-0 win at the Amex Stadium back in December where Kike, Albert Adomah and Cristhian Stuani all got on the scoresheet. That result meant Boro were top of the Championship table at Christmas.
Middlesbrough can be backed at 4/11 at the time of writing in the football betting to be promoted at the end of the season while they are 5/2 in the outright market for the Championship with Burnley at 8/13.
The international break may just work in Boro’s favour as it is going to be big push over the next couple of months. Those players who are leaving on international duty could benefit from the break in league action, while those not away with their countries will be able to rest ahead of what is set to be a busy schedule.
Boro return to action away to QPR at Loftus Road. They were able to beat the West London club 1-0 earlier in the season and The Rs have faded away from the play-offs in recent weeks so don’t have as much to play for.