Boro boss Aitor Karanka demands total focus against Norwich City

Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka is demanding total focus from the Teessiders. Photo: John Walton

Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka is demanding total focus from the Teessiders. Photo: John Walton/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

Aitor Karanka admitted leading Middlesbrough to Wembley is beyond his wildest dreams ahead of Monday's Championship play-off final against Norwich City.

The Teessiders' boss is in his first full season as a manager, after three years working alongside Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid, before replacing Tony Mowbray at the Riverside in November 2013.

Karanka's squad completed a league double over the Canaries with a 1-0 win at Carrow Road in April, but all bets are off for the Spaniard with a Premier League place at stake in front of a crowd of 88,000.

'I don't think (we're favourites) because the two games weren't a good reflection,' he said. 'At the beginning of the season they weren't in a good way, and in the game we played there (in Norwich) they had chances and we defended for 60 minutes.

'If you look at their squad, they've played the last three seasons in the Premier League, so we're not favourites, but we go there to fight against a very good team.

'This is different because against every single team in the league, if you lose you have another opportunity. If you lose one game in the play-offs, then you have another opportunity, but in the final you can't lose because you don't have another opportunity. This is the main thing – to not make mistakes, to be intelligent and to play with the pressure.'

Karanka took his squad to Wembley to watch Saturday's thrilling League Two final between Southend and Wycombe which ended in a penalty triumph for the Shrimpers.

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'Only a few of our players know Wembley so I think it was good for them to see how big Wembley is,' he said. 'I think it is important for the players when you aren't used to playing in big stadiums like the Bernabeu or Stamford Bridge or Old Trafford.

'I think it's amazing for everybody (to reach the final), especially for me. I came here 18 months ago and I couldn't imagine at that time we would be playing at Wembley.'

The Boro boss has stressed to his players they must win the mental battle.

'The way to prepare is the same in terms of tactics or physicality, but you have to prepare in other ways, because it's a final,' he said. 'The mental point of view is different because a final is always a different game. One friend told me after the (Brentford) game that we have another game and I told him, 'It's not another game – it's the game, because the final is completely different.'

'You're going to play for all of the season. Tactically and physically we're going to do the same as what we've done all season, but the psychology and other things has to be different.'