MANAGER Russell Martin believes it is a positive that Saints have been "written off" by everyone ahead of the Championship run-in. 

The St Mary's side are nine points behind league leaders Leeds United but have two games in hand after postponements. 

Bookies have Saints out at 13/2 for automatic promotion, with Leeds and Leicester City ranked as the two favourites. 

Saints have 10 matches left to end the season with the prospect of playoffs if they cannot overturn the points deficit.

Speaking ahead of the finale, Martin said: "You are getting so close to the end goal and everything you want to achieve.

Daily Echo: Saints boss Russell Martin still believes his side can finish in the top twoSaints boss Russell Martin still believes his side can finish in the top two

"Every game you tick off now, you get closer and closer. Crazy things will happen in the league between now and the end of the season.

"There will be some strange games and strange results. We have to take care of ourselves," he continued.

"The beautiful thing for us is that we have been written off by everyone. 

"We have averaged two points a game and have been completely written off which is really interesting and shows the quality of the league. 

"We will take each day as it comes and we have a tough one against Middlesbrough, who are in good form - especially away from home."

Saints welcome Middlesbrough to St Mary's on Good Friday before the visit to promotion rivals Ipswich Town on Monday. 

Boro, managed by Manchester United legend Michael Carrick, are unbeaten in their last four, keeping three clean sheets.

Daily Echo: Michael Carrick's Middlesbrough reached the playoff semi-final last seasonMichael Carrick's Middlesbrough reached the playoff semi-final last season (Image: PA)

The Riverside outfit, who came from behind to beat Saints 2-1 in the reverse fixture, are looking to stage a late playoff push of their own.

Martin admitted: "They have a good manager who I respect a lot and I think they have been unlucky if you look at the data.

"They probably should be a bit higher up than they are. It's a tough game but they all are in this league.

"I am really excited for this challenge. After a bit of an extended break, we need a result and it's a big weekend for us.

"They have changed shape recently and it's worked quite well but they are flexible.

"I don't know why their away record is better than at home but when you watch the games they are quite consistent.

"There's no difference in setup or performance and they have been good." 

The match is Southampton's first fixture on Good Friday since April 2009, when they were beaten 3-0 by Wolves at the Molineux. 

All four of the promotion-chasing sides play at different times on Friday, with Leicester visiting Bristol City in the lunchtime kick-off. 

Saints play at 3pm before Blackburn Rovers versus Ipswich kicks off at 5:30pm and Leeds visit Watford at 8pm.