Bolton's dream start is cue for top-six finish

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The Independent Football

Jay-Jay Okocha insists Bolton are looking towards the top rather than the bottom of the Premiership, and shrugs off criticism of the team's style, described as "in-your-face football" by the Newcastle manager, Graeme Souness.

Bolton aim to continue their bright start to the campaign today away to another in-form side, Middlesbrough. Okocha says: "We are very ambitious. We are trying to forget about relegation. We have gone past that stage, but we know we have got to keep our feet on the floor.

"It is our ambition to stay in the top six after the Christmas programme. Three points will be massive for us and Middlesbrough. It is going to be an interesting game, and we should focus on not conceding any goals."

Middlesbrough lifted the League Cup in February by beating Bolton, and Okocha adds: "It will be a very difficult match, because they are better than last year.

"Winning that cup gave them the opportunity to invest more in the squad. They have brought in better-quality players and they have settled in very quickly. They must be swimming in confidence - but so are we."

The Bolton manager, Sam Allardyce, is calling on his team to build on this "dream start". Wanderers have won 11 out of 17 League games stretching back to last season. The others have brought three draws and three defeats.

"We are averaging almost two points a game, which is something you dream about. It gives us a base to achieve what we want to. Our drive is not to waste what we have worked hard to achieve. We have never ridden in the top six consistently before, and people are talking about Europe. Let's hope we can keep them talking."

Bolton's defender and Tun-isian international Radhi Jaidi is likely to play at Middlesbrough, despite suffering a broken nose in a collision with Shay Given during last week's victory against Newcastle. Midfielder Ivan Campo could feature after returning to training from a three-match absence with a facial injury.

Meanwhile, Khalilou Fadiga is expected to return to the club tomorrow, when his future will be discussed following the implanting of an automatic defibrillator to try to correct a heart problem. The Senegal midfielder collapsed on the pitch before the League Cup game against Tottenham.

The Rangers captain, Stefan Klos, admits last week's 5-0 demolition of Aberdeen flattered his side. The German insists too that Alex McLeish's players must up the ante if they are mount a serious challenge to Celtic's crown, beginning at Livingston today.

Aberdeen's manager, Jimmy Calderwood, has apologised to his players after last week's reverse, blaming his own gung-ho tactics rather than the team's individual performances. Klos, meanwhile, is warning that Livingston may not be so generous.

"The results have been good in the last month, but I still think we can improve," he said. "We have to work hard if we want to win something. It was great to score five goals against Aberdeen, but it covered up our deficiencies.We know we must improve if we want to win something this year." Rangers will need to be on their guard, Klos warns, if they are not to slip up today.

"Livingston always give us a hard game there. But we will be going for the three points," he promised.

McLeish has had to cope with injury troubles throughout the season, but now those problems are receding rapidly. Rangers will make at least one change from the side who beat Aberdeen, with Steven Thompson replacing Dado Prso up front because the Croatian has had eight stitches in a head wound.

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