Middlesbrough V Burnley at Riverside Stadium : Match Preview

07 April 2017

Steve Agnew insists Middlesbrough can still stay up ahead of visit of Burnley

Middlesbrough's interim head coach Steve Agnew is determined to ignore the doom-mongers who predict his side are destined for a quick return to the Championship after just one season in the top-flight.

Boro's midweek defeat at Hull left them seven points from safety with just eight games to go as they head into their crucial Riverside Stadium clash with Burnley.

But Agnew insists belief levels have not dipped since he replaced Aitor Karanka in charge last month - and that the united front they forged during last season's promotion campaign can serve them well.

Agnew said: "I have enough intelligence to know what is being written and I understand that, but at times like this my full focus is on preparing for Burnley and nothing is going to get in the way of that.

"The fighting spirit is still there and the fighting spirit within this group when we won promotion this season will be very evident on the pitch. We have had a good meeting and the players are very positive towards the work we've got to do.

"I'm confident because not only will three points move us closer to the rest but if the results go our way then that puts pressure on the other teams around us."

Boro's defeat at the KC Stadium extended their winless top-flight run to 13 games and made it imperative that Agnew's men find a way to capitalise on the notorious travel sickness affecting the Clarets this season.

Agnew added: "We know exactly where we are (in the table) and we have to set up to win the game. There are no other targets other than tomorrow's game."

Boro's quest is hampered by the continued loss of a number of big names with George Friend and Calum Chambers still ruled out and Gaston Ramirez facing a late fitness test.

Sean Dyche claims Burnley's dismal away record could be a bigger issue for Middlesbrough than his own players this weekend.

The Clarets are yet to register a Premier League victory on their travels despite a positive campaign that sees them close to securing their place in the top flight for another season.

Saturday's trip to struggling Boro offers a chance to end that unwanted record but Dyche insists his team are not bothered by the matter and are only interested in winning matches, wherever they are played.

Dyche said: "I don't think it's necessarily about ending a winless run, that's just a story. It's points on the board, that's what you want. If they come away, great, if they come at home, great. It's not a big thought of mine.

"Moving forward is important, building is important, improvement is important. Getting to the end of the season and reflecting on where we're at, and our drive is to be in the Premier League, that's our main thing.

"Probably the thing they're thinking is - and we're working hard for it to come true - is that statistically we're a bit of an anomaly and that will end with someone.

"Every team we play will be thinking they don't want to be the side we beat. They know people will be reminding them of the fact that we haven't won away. That will play a part in their thoughts.

"They don't want to be the team we win against because it will make a story at some level.

"The other week that was pronounced as mind games. It isn't. It's purely because it's a fact."

Burnley moved to 35 points with Tuesday's victory over Stoke, a tally that already eclipses their efforts in their two previous Premier League campaigns.

The victory was a first since January and eased fears they could be pulled into the relegation battle.