One final push to Promotion and the Premier League
The Championship play-off final is widely billed as being the most lucrative football match in the world, with the winners reaching the promised land of the Premier League and a £100 million bounty to boot.
However, the play-off final has come early in the Championship this season, as Middlesbrough and Brighton, face-off in a winner takes all match at the Riverside on Saturday afternoon. Boro have had their chances in recent weeks, to clinch automatic promotion but three draws in a row, have left the team level on 88 points with Brighton, going in to the final game of the season.
That being said, looking back on what could have been, is not the correct frame of mind to be entering a match of this magnitude. That goes for players and fans alike. Aitor Karanka has already spoken about how crucial a supportive and positive atmosphere will be inside the stadium on Saturday. Any sign of anxiety or nervousness from the terraces could easily manifest itself on the pitch and have a negative impact on player performance.
Furthermore, there have been some refereeing decisions which have gone against Boro of late, such as the ruled out goal, scored by Daniel Ayala at Birmingham last time out. Unfortunately, these decisions are something which players cannot control and although it’s infuriating when it goes against you, it’s time to move on and focus on what the team can control.
It’s important to come on to the pitch with a positive attitude and start the game in the same manner. Brighton will be hoping Boro are happy to sit back and let them do the attacking but this will be inviting unwelcome pressure on to the team from the word go. It’s key that the team get on the front foot and take a grip of the match because this is not the sort of game you want to be chasing, there is too much at stake as 888sport football odds would suggest. Game management should play a part but that’s for the latter stages of the match, not from the first whistle. It becomes very difficult to get in to an attacking rhythm three-quarters of the way through a match but it’s much easier to start that way.
Nevertheless, the way this season has gone, the match is very unlikely to be an easy ride and chances are, there will still be all to play for come the final stages of the game. That’s when the fans and players will need to come together, for one final push to promotion and the Premier League.