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Sky Bet Championship promotion race: Norwich City v Middlesbrough

17 April 2015

If the Sky Bet Championship promotion race wasn't enthralling enough, second-placed Norwich City host Middlesbrough, in fourth, on Friday night.

The match – live on Sky Sports – kicks-off at Carrow Road at 7:45pm, and is arguably the biggest game of the 2014/15 Sky Bet Football League season to date.

Just one point currently separates the pair and, with the top four only divided by two points, both teams know that a defeat will be a massive blow to their hopes of automatic promotion and the title.

The Canaries' quest for an immediate return to the Premier League has been re-ignited since Alex Neil's arrival in January, during which time the former Hamilton boss has taken 45 points from a possible 57 (W14, D3, L2).

The Norfolk side are also unbeaten in their past eight, having won the last five of those. The most recent triumph was a 2-0 victory at Leeds United, with Jonny Howson scoring against his former club.

Middlesbrough, meanwhile, have won five of their past seven, but the two defeats within that run were both away from home, to Watford and Bournemouth. After losing such key outings at promotion rivals, Aitor Karanka’s team will be looking to prove that they can cut it with the sides around them on Friday.

The Teessiders possess the best defence in the division, while Patrick Bamford’s 17 league goals have ensured a promotion push in their sixth consecutive season at this level. For Norwich, the 18 Championship strikes of Cameron Jerome have provided the firepower since August.

A view from the dugout

Alex Neil believes his side are in a good place ahead of the fixture.

“We’re really confident, we’re in a good place the moment. We know what our task is, and if we play at our full potential, then we can beat anyone in the league,” Neil told the club's official website.

“For both teams, a win is what is needed. We’ll go into the game with the approach of trying to do that, and I’m sure they will be the same. It should make for an entertaining game hopefully.”

His opposite number, Aitor Karanka, is just as optimistic and believes his side can put the recent defeats at their title rivals behind them.

The Spaniard, speaking to the club's official website ahead of the game, said: "I think we have learned from the games against Bournemouth and Watford.

"The main thing is the players are transmitting confidence to me, so I'll arrive at the game confident that we can win."

If you can’t watch the match, then the official @SkyBetChamp Twitter account will provide goal updates.

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