A stunning run of form in the second half of the season has lifted Middlesbrough firmly into promotion contention with a Championship play-off spot looking more likely each week.
Boro’s fortunes have been revived by manager Michael Carrick, who replaced Chris Wilder in October, and while leaders Burnley may be too far ahead to catch, Sheffield United’s recent stumble has opened the door for second place.
Here are the biggest games remaining for Middlesbrough as fans hope for automatic promotion.
Middlesbrough return to Championship action following the international break with a trip to struggling Huddersfield. They’ll expect to win that one to set up an intriguing tie with Vincent Kompany’s Burnley.
The Clarets are shoo-ins for the title having dominated for most of the season and have the mental edge on Boro having won 3-1 back in December.
Matches between Middlesbrough and Norwich tended to go a similar way for about five years from the mid-2010s. Before their meeting on November 12 earlier this season, all but one of the last seven games had been won by City – Boro didn’t even score a goal against the Canaries in that time.
That woeful record was put right when the two sides met at Carrow Road. Josh Sargent had put the hosts ahead in the seventh minute but a stirring second-half comeback from Boro saw Riley McGree equalise with a stunning strike from distance before Matt Crooks sealed the win in the 92nd minute.
Luton took Nathan Jones’ mid-season departure to Southampton in stride and are one of the form sides heading into the final stretch of the season.
Town have won four of their last six Championship games to sit fourth, just a place and three points behind Boro, who hold a comfortable advantage on goal difference. If Boro were to lose this trip to Kenilworth Road, it would likely spell the end for their automatic promotion hopes.
Middlesbrough will hope Coventry are out of the play-off conversation by the time their meeting on the final day of the season comes around.
The goals of Viktor Gyokeres have powered City into the promotion conversation and it was the Swede’s goal back in October that gave Mark Robins’ side a 1-0 win. Boro will be looking for a different result, with either automatic promotion or a high-ranking play-off spot likely at stake.
Middlesbrough don’t have the strongest record in previous Championship play-offs. When they were last promoted to the Premier League in 2016, they finished second and went up automatically, avoiding a potential trip to Wembley.
Boro faced Aston Villa in their last play-off appearance in 2018 but lost 1-0 across both legs following Mile Jedinak’s strike at the Riverside. In 2015, they had no issues dispatching of Brentford 5-1 on aggregate in the semi-finals, but early goals from Cameron Jerome and Nathan Redmond in the final saw Norwich go up and claim Wembley glory.
Boro finished third in the Second Division in 1987/88 and overcame Bradford 3-2 in the play-off semi finals, scoring their winner in extra time of the second leg, and beat Chelsea to take the Blues’ place in the top flight.
The final day of the 2022/23 Championship season will take place on Monday 8 May. Once the regular season table is finalised, the semi final dates will be announced. The semi finals normally kick off around a week after the final league fixtures, so the first legs should take place on the weekend of May 13/14.
The team that finishes third takes on sixth place, leaving a more balanced tie between fourth and fifth.
When is the 2023 Championship play-off final?
The winners of those two-legged clashes will face off at Wembley for the chance to reach the Premier League. The EFL has confirmed the playoff final will be played between May 27 and May 29, with an afternoon kick off expected to be confirmed.