Middlesbrough welcome Derby County to the Riverside Stadium as two struggling Championship teams look to continue their resurgent form.
Both teams enter this weekend locked on 33 points apiece knowing that a win could move them up to 14th and possibly five points outside the Play-Offs, depending on results elsewhere.
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Daniel Ayala is ruled out for Middlesbrough with an ankle injury which he suffered at Preston on New Year’s Day.
Ryan Shotton, Britt Assombalonga (both ankle), George Friend (tendon) and Anfernee Dijksteel (knee) are also sidelined, whilst Darren Randolph is close to securing a move back to West Ham.
Derby will have Tom Lawrence available after the Welshman missed their last two league games through suspension, although he did return for their FA Cup win away at Crystal Palace last weekend.
Krystian Bielik is serving the last of a three match ban after he was sent off against Charlton over the festive period.
Ikechi Anya, George Evans (both calf), Mason Bennett (ankle) and Graeme Shinnie (hamstring) are ruled out.
Boro enter this match unbeaten in their last five matches across all competitions (W4, D1) and also unbeaten in their last seven at home (W4, D3), although they have kept four clean sheets from their last six home league games.
Derby are unbeaten in their last four games in all competitions (W3, D1) but have kept just one clean sheet in their last 11 league outings.
- Middlesbrough have won just one of their last five matches against Derby (W1, D2, L2).
- Derby have won just two of their 13 trips to the Riverside this century (W2, D2, L9).
- Both goals in their last meeting here last season came from own goals by defenders (George Friend and Jayden Bogle).
- Derby’s two sending offs this season have both come in the first-half, occuring in the fourth and 17th minutes respectively.
- Three of Middlesbrough’s last five league goals have come after half-time.
Middlesbrough seem to have finally found their feet under Jonathan Woodgate but this is going to be a tough test, because Derby have also picked up form since Christmas and will arrive on Teesside on a high after beating Palace away last weekend in the FA Cup.
Both teams are also in a position where they shouldn’t be in terms of mid-table and every point now matters, if either want to reach the Play-Offs so a win here could be a defining point for both clubs.
I therefore am expecting a good battle but given Derby’s poor away form at the Riverside this century, I am going for a Boro win.
Prediction: Middlesbrough 2-1 Derby County
Result: Middlesbrough 2-2 Derby County