The Riverside Stadium is set to witness an absolute blockbuster top of the table clash between first place Middlesbrough and second place Derby County and there’s no reason to miss out as punters and fans can watch online this afternoon (15:00).
There is a very good chance that both of these two sides will be playing their football in the top flight next season and this is set to be one to savour. Both sides have had impressive runs of form lately, with Middlesbrough making a convincing statement to the rest of the league with a crushing 3-0 victory away at Brighton just over a week ago.
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Derby have managed their own impressive wins in December, managing 2-0 and 4-0 home victories against Fulham and Bristol City respectively. Indeed, both teams have been so good lately that a loss for either side would still leave them out of reach of third and fourth place Hull and Brighton.
The home side are favoured to take all three points at the Riverside and their chances of doing so have been boosted by the return of striker David Nugent who will make his return following a suspension. Nugent was unable to play a part in Middlesbrough’s win against Sheffield Wednesday which sent them to the top of the table.
Damia Abella and Alex Baptiste will be kept out of the side due to injury and although Rhys Williams has made a comeback from his own injury complaint, it is likely he will be sent out on loan before stepping onto the field in a Middlesbrough shirt.
Derby County are likely to field a starting XI featuring Tom Ince, Chris Martin and George Thorne. The Rams’ side has been rotated lately due to the festive fixture congestion but Derby are likely to field their strongest side for the visit to Middlesbrough. Ince in particular has a vital role to play as he often appears to be the main source of danger for Derby. Ince will be looking to add to his tally after he was able to come off the bench and score a crucial equalizer in the earlier contest against Leeds.
Middlesbrough are heavily favoured to take all three points at home and if they are able to live up to expectations then it will create a real gap between themselves and the rest of the challengers. Boro will be four points above Derby but, most crucially, with a game in hand.
Should Middlesbrough go on to triumph in that game then there will be at least a seven point gap between themselves and second place – something that will be very difficult for any side in the Championship to overcome.