The Clarets travel to the Riverside this weekend as they seek to finally end their dreadful away record, but Middlesbrough, who need points for their own reasons, are certain to provide a stern test.
Saturday’s clash sees the top two from last season’s Championship lock horns, however, few would’ve predicted the contrasting fortunes the two sides have had this season.
Burnley are in the relative safety of mid-table, and seemingly only one victory away from safety. Whereas Middlesbrough, who were many people’s bet to finish comfortably above the drop zone, find themselves marooned in the bottom three and showing no signs of getting out of the mire.
Ahead of what looks to be a massive game, I caught up with fans of both teams to gauge their opinions on a match which could define the seasons of both teams…
A huge win against Stoke on Tuesday night took Burnley to 35 points, how many more do you think we need to be assured of safety?
Absolutely massive 3 points, that calms all nerves for another few weeks. Honestly believe that one more win should see us safe, 4 points to confirm it. Of course that doesn’t mean we should just be looking for 3 more points now till end of the season, only 1 point right now of making a top half finish, wouldn’t that be nice!
Brady – Hendrick – Defour – Boyd
We need Boyd’s defensive qualities for this game, and remember Brady has played LB for Ireland and Norwich so he’ll be sound in the defensive department also.
The general consensus among Middlesbrough fans is now one of resignation. This week was dubbed “the week of destiny” for the club as we faced three fixtures which would be most likely to see us pick up some points, something which we’ve failed to do.
Although survival is still a mathematical possibility, our future is now very much out of our hands, and even with a victory over Burnley on Saturday, it would still require us to win a handful of fixtures before the end of the season, a tough task based on a tricky fixture list and a grand total of four wins all season.
What do you believe will be the key to Boro beating Burnley on Saturday?
The main job will be to get our players focussed again. The defeat last night was a huge blow to the club’s chances of survival, and if we are to complete the most unlikely of great escapes, we will need our players to be focussed and determined to get the win.
Our defence has been our greatest asset all season, but this has come at the detriment of our attacking play. Against Hull we pushed forward more but conceded four goals in the process, so we will need to find the correct balance between defence and attack which will see us score goals without being left wide open in defence, something which we haven’t been able to do this season.
It is well known that Middlesbrough are tight at the back, but don’t score many goals. What do you put that down to and do you think it will change with Agnew in charge?
Philosophy. Aitor Karanka had a clear focus which was keeping his side in matches at all times through building a tight defence so we were never “out of the game”, meaning we would always have a chance of picking up points. For the most part, this proved to be a huge success as we still found a way to win games in previous seasons, while holding one of the country’s best defences, but this season our attacking players have struggled to show the quality needed to create opportunities, leading to a season of drab matches.
Agnew has no choice now to push forward to get goals in order to win games, but this will undoubtedly come to the detriment of our defensive display.
What should Burnley fans expect of Middlesbrough on Saturday?
The Riverside will be a deflated place on Saturday. With many fans feeling resigned to the inevitable, and others still backing the club until they are mathematically relegated, it is likely to be a slightly hostile and downbeat atmosphere amongst the home fans.
This is like to translate onto the pitch with a nervy display and if Burnley were to make a strong start, it is likely that the atmosphere could take its toll on the team.
How do you see the game panning out and what is your score prediction?
I think it will be a reasonably tight match, with both sides playing with a cautious approach. However as Boro will be in need of a win I could see them opening up as the game progresses. I’d back the game the finish 1-1.