A traditional three o’clock kickoff on Boxing Day sees second placed Derby County take on Fulham at the iPro Stadium.
Derby will be hoping to take all three points, an outcome which would see the Rams go top of the table, provided that Blackburn are able to upset Middlesbrough and they will be well fancied to do that against a struggling Fulham side.
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Fulham are currently stuck in eighteenth position and a loss could see them slip precariously close to the relegation zone. Derby have put together an intimidating run of home victories and are favoured to add Fulham to their list of conquests as the Ipro has become something of a fortress this season.
The home team are heavily expected to unleash their exciting 4-3-3 based attack which has helped Derby put up the second best goal difference in the Championship.
The Rams are set to play without Will Hughes and Jake Buxton, both sidelined by ongoing injury concerns. Derby have no new injuries or suspensions to cope with and could well name an unchanged XI from their recent 1-0 away win against Ipswich. Impressive midfielder George Thorne is set to start behind the three pronged attack of Chris Martin, Tom Ince and Johnny Russell.
The attack is by no means the only impressive aspect of Derby’s side – the Rams have managed to keep a clean sheet in six of their last eight home contests.
Fulham’s daunting away day is made harder by the fact they have failed to win in their last eight Championship matches. Of Fulham’s last three away contests, they have managed two draws, against Bolton and the MK Dons, and one 3-0 loss to Nottingham Forest.
Fulham’s slim hopes have been boosted by the probable returns of Tom Cairney and Jamie O’Hara. Coach Stuart Grey is set to take charge of Fulham once more with the club still being without a permanent boss. An upset win against Derby could potentially put Grey is contention for the permanent role.
In the absence of a permanent manager, Fulham are likely to rally round the talismanic Ross McCormack.
McCormack’s late strike against Bolton was enough to salvage a point, but Derby are an entirely different prospect.
In all likelihood, Derby will crush the visitors emphatically having won six of their last seven home games and scoring at least twice in six of those games.
However, Boxing Day is known to be an unpredictable time where almost anything can happen.
Fulham fans will be clinging to the hope that their side are due a win eventually, and the iPro Stadium may be the unlikely venue for it to happen.
The odds on the home win do speak volumes, with the home side available to be backed at a lowly price of 8/15.