The television broadcasters have certainly selected one of the more exciting games this weekend, with both of these outfits poised for a promotion clash at the Riverside Stadium. While Derby currently lead the Championship following a points haul of 38, opponents Middlesbrough could actually leapfrog them and find themselves top of the table as they trail them by just two points.
Middlesbrough’s campaign has been a huge success thus far and it’s finally looking as though the decision to appoint the club’s first ever foreign boss is paying dividends. Aitor Karanka had mixed fortunes when he first arrived, but the club’s current position suggests that his first full campaign in charge is going to be a fruitful one. One of Karanka’s main successes so far has been his ability to make his side so difficult to beat and the fact that they’ve lost just one out of their last fifteen games is a testament to that. Additionally, they approach this clash having thrashed Millwall in 5-1 fashion in their last game, although on a slightly lower note they have drawn three of their last four games at the Riverside Stadium.
Derby meanwhile have carried off right where they left off from last year and it looks as though Steve McClaren is once again highlighting how he has revived his reputation in English football. The Rams are currently leading the second tier and while some were expecting a turn of bad form after a shock 2-0 loss to Leeds a couple of weeks ago, McClaren’s men bounced back in emphatic fashion last week by thrashing Brighton 3-0. It means that the club have won four of their last five matches, although just like Middlesbrough there is some concerning news in relation to their away form. They’ve lost two of their last three on the road, so it remains to be seen just how they’ll fare this time around.
As for team news, Middlesbrough might be able to recall two long-term absentees as Jonathan Woodgate and Rhys Williams both near full fitness. Hamstring and Achilles issues have been hindering the duo respectively, but only time will tell on whether or not both are ready for the rigours of a first team starting place. There’s little to report for the visitors meanwhile, with the only news surrounding Richard Keogh. He is back available after recovering from a hamstring problem, although whether or not Steve McClaren will sway away from a winning formula is another matter.
In terms of a prediction, we think this clash could end in a draw. Despite the lofty positions of both of these sides, Middlesbrough haven’t been convincing at home while Derby have lost a couple on the road of late. Bearing this in mind, our tip will be a 1-1 scoreline.