A TRAVELLING army will head down from Teesside to the capital today full of nervous tension, but head coach Aitor Karanka insists Middlesbrough are not the ones under pressure in the frenzied battle for automatic promotion.
Boro head into their game at Craven Cottage behind the top two of Watford, in action this lunchtime at Brighton, and Bournemouth, who have to wait until Monday to take the field in their home game with Bolton Wanderers.
Results could see Boro top the table ahead of the final round of games next weekend, but Karanka is keeping calm and believes that the pressure is more on the shoulders of the Hornets and Cherries, with his side having nothing to lose.
As it stands, leaders Watford are one point better off than the second-placed Cherries and third-placed Boro, who are both on 84 points.
Over 5,000 Boro fans are expected at Fulham today, with Karanka adamant the pressure is on the top two, with Boro having already achieved their stated pre-season target of a play-off place.
Karanka, sweating over the fitness of key trio Patrick Bamford, Albert Adomah and Jelle Vossen ahead of the Cottagers’ test, said: “We are not under pressure because we are third, so we don’t have anything to lose.
“Our objective at the beginning of the season was to get into the play-offs and we did that two weeks ago so the pressure is not for us.”
This said, Karanka admits that Boro have to win their final two matches – against Fulham and Brighton – if they are to have any chance of overhauling the top two.
Karanka, whose side are set to be backed by a full house of around 34,500 against the Seagulls next weekend at the Riverside Stadium, added: “We have to win.
“We made mistakes against Bournemouth and Watford and now we can’t make more mistakes.
“We need to win both games and we are working to beat Fulham on Saturday and then we will prepare for Brighton.”