As 2019 begins, everything is up for grabs in Sky Bet Championship as Derby County meets Middlesbrough in a massive clash at Pride Park.
Both teams are level on 42 points with Boro just sat above Derby in fifth on goal difference, making this a pivotal game which could well prove decisive come May.
Team newsEmbed from Getty Images
Derby could hand midfielder, Bradley Johnson a start after he was left out of the squad against Norwich, despite having completed a five match ban.
Tom Huddlestone and Craig Bryson will both be vying for a start after dropping to the bench at weekend.
Middlesbrough will assess Ryan Shotton after the defender sat out their last two games with a knee injury, as Rudy Gestede remains sidelined with a hamstring injury.
Aden Flint, Paddy McNair and Britt Assombalonga will all be hoping to start after missing Saturday’s win over Ipswich, with Flint not even on bench whilst latter two were unused subs.
Derby enter this match with their first win in four games after coming from behind at point of a blackout to beat Norwich 4-3 at weekend.
Home wise, they are unbeaten in four of their last five but drawn last two against Nottingham Forest and Bristol City.
Middlesbrough meanwhile collected just their second win in last six outings across all competitions, after beating Ipswich 2-0 on Saturday.
On their travels, the Teessiders have avoided defeat in seven of last eight away games with four wins and three draws whilst they lost at QPR just over a fortnight ago.
- Derby have lost five of last eight meetings with Middlesbrough but have avoided defeat in three of last five clashes (W1, D2, L5).
- During that period, only the winning side scored in five of those games.
- In three previous New Year Day meetings, both sides have won one apiece whilst drawing the other. Derby however are unbeaten on last two occasions when met on this date with last coming in a 3-1 win here on New Year Day 2013.
- Middlesbrough’s Britt Assombalonga has just six goals after 25 games this season compared to 12 goals at this stage last season.
- Derby have earned just four points less than what they had at this stage last season (42 in 2018-19 v 46 in 2017-18)
I can see Middlesbrough trying to keep things tight and play on the counter but Derby showed on Saturday how fearless they can be against clubs around them if lines aren’t cleared.
Prediction: Derby County 2-1 Middlesbrough