Norwich City v Middlesbrough preview

For the fans of both Norwich City and Middlesbrough, the outcome of tonight's Championship clash at Carrow Road may well have a major bearing on the automatic promotion places. With just two places guaranteed into the riches of the Premier League next season, and the next four teams then going into the lottery of the play-offs to determine the final promotion place, the sides battling it out at the top know that it is make or break time for them to fulfil their ambitions after a long campaign. Norwich currently sit second in the league, a point behind Bournemouth, with Watford intriguingly level on points with them and waiting for the Canaries to make a slip up.

Middlesbrough also sense the potential for a top two place is within their grasp, as they lie 4th a further point behind Watford.

With just two games remaining after tonight for both teams, neither team can afford to lose ground at this stage. Norwich as the home side will probably start as slight favourites, and will have been buoyed by the successive away victories at Bolton Wanderers and Leeds United. They will be wary though of their opposition after the 4-0 thrashing they received earlier in the season at the Riverside Stadium. A major boost to the East Anglian side will be the return after serving a two-match suspension of Bradley Johnson, who has been perhaps their player of the season so far.

The free-scoring midfielder has become a crowd favourite since his move from Leeds. Striker Lewis Grabban is an injury doubt after a re-occurrence of his ankle problems in the midweek match on Tuesday.

Manager Alex Neil has claimed that he is looking for victories in Norwich's remaining fixtures to clinch automatic promotion, but he will also be acutely aware of the danger that Watford may overhaul the goal difference that currently sees his side just one goal better off than the Hornets.

That should not imply that his players throw caution to the wind against their opponents, but should the opportunity arise to boost their goal difference further in the remaining fixtures, they would be wise to look to do so.

Middlesbrough fans will be disappointed to lose the experience of Jonathan Woodgate at the centre of their defence, the ex-Real Madrid and Leeds United defender suffering with a hamstring problem of late.

They are also likely to miss Daniel Ayala with a thigh issue and Albert Adomah is another doubtful starter because of injury concerns. Their loanee from Chelsea, Tomas Kalas should be available for selection though, in what would be his final appearance for the north-east club.

Boro have the meanest defence in the league with just 33 goals conceded going into tonight's fixture, but with defensive cover a little on the short side, Norwich's potent attacking unit may well look to prosper at home in front of an expected capacity 27,000 crowd.