How are Middlesbrough preparing for their promotion triple-header?

Aitor Karanka's men are gearing up for three highly-charged encounters with promotion rivals, and their manager says they must cope with the pressure.

Middlesbrough have been in promotion contention all season, but like the other seven clubs grouped together at the top of the Sky Bet Championship table and separated by just five points, they have never been able to pull away and create a commanding lead.

Now 'Boro face Ipswich Town at the Riverside on Saturday before crucial away trips to both Derby County (Tuesday 17th) and Bournemouth (Saturday 21st). With all three games coming in the space of seven days, manager Aitor Karanka is drawing strength from his playing days to help his club prepare.

Citing the pressure that comes naturally with being successful in football, Karanka claims it is inevitable his players will feel the strain and tension as the importance of each games builds. Speaking to the BBC, Karanka said:  "To take the pressure off is impossible. When I was a player at Real Madrid, Athletic Bilbao and the Spanish national team it was the same. When you want to win something, you can never do it without pressure.

"If you are playing to win something you will face pressure, we have to manage this pressure and have to work in the same way we have been working for the last seven months."

The pressure on the Teessiders has not been eased by an inconsistent run of form in recent weeks, where defeats to Leeds United, Sheffield Wednesday and last Saturday at Nottingham Forest have come amidst crucial home wins against Bolton and Millwall that have kept them in the hunt. Such a run brings its own pressure, as nobody quite knows which 'Boro team is going to turn up.

By 5.00pm on Saturday 21st March, Middlesbrough could be clear at the top of the table, outside the play-off places or still in the thick of the battle, and Karanka is ensuring his players are mentally strong enough to cope with each eventuality. 

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