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Will Middlesbrough derail Norwich’s promotion hopes?

With just three games remaining in the 2014/2015 Championship season, the race for the top two is set to go down to the wire in what has developed into the more dramatic and closest ever finish in league history.

No fewer than four teams have a realistic chance of securing their place in the Premier League, with just two points separating first from fourth in a wonderful climax which could be decided on who holds their nerve and does not slip up in their remaining fixture.

Two teams who are firmly in contention for promotion are set to meet at Carrow Road in what promises to be a massive game for both teams, as Norwich host Middlesbrough in a winner-takes-all blockbuster.

The Canaries are arguably the most in-form team in the division and have surged into contention since Alex Neil took charge in January, while Boro have been battling at the top for the majority of the season under Aitor Karanka.

Middlesbrough certainly have the quality to dent Norwich’s hopes in front of a packed home crowd, and although three points may not even be enough for either team to reach the promised land of the Premier League, the visitors will undoubtedly be Norwich’s biggest test in the final run-in.

Superb run
Five straight victories, combined with a eight-game unbeaten run, not only illustrates the superb form that Norwich are currently enjoying, but it is also typical of the unerring ability of all the top teams to not slip up at any point when many would expect at least one or two teams to drop points.

Neil has made a wonderful impact since arriving from Scottish Premier League side Hamilton, with Norwich playing an attractive brand of football that has been a pleasure to watch.

It is difficult to see an area of the pitch where Norwich have a weakness, with the club lucky in some respects to keep hold the majority of their Premier League squad and have a number of goal-scorers in midfield and upfront who continue to produce. Four of their players, including Bradley Johnson who is enjoying the best season in front of goal in his career, have reached double figures, while the attacking trio of Cameron Jerome, Gary Hooper and Lewis Grabban are always capable of scoring.

Bradley Johnson

However, Norwich may need Sebastian Bassong and John Ruddy to be on top form to keep Middlesbrough at bay at the other end, but Neil will fancy their chances of producing the goods once again on home soil.

Best defence
Middlesbrough’s crucial 2-1 victory against promotion hopeful Wolves not only kept them in the race for automatic promotion, but mathematically guaranteed Karanka’s side of finishing in the play-offs. It was only the thirty-third goal they have conceded in the Championship which, if Boro manage to secure their place in the Premier League, will be the main reason behind their promotion.

Middlesbrough also appear to have rediscovered their clinical touch in front of goal, with the crossbar twice preventing them from enjoying a bigger win against Wolves. However, consecutive away defeats at Bournemouth and Watford may not only come back to haunt them at the end of the season, but also highlights that Boro have shown weaknesses away from the Riverside Stadium at the wrong time.

Grant Leadbitter may make a crucial return to action following a two-match ban, and if Patrick Bamford can continue his wonderful form in front of goal, then Middlesbrough have enough quality to repeat the 4-0 scoreline they enjoyed over the Canaries earlier in the season.