January 10, 2014 Saturday, 20:15
7/4 Derby County Odds to Win
12/5 Draw Odds
Two of the league's top three will go head to head in the first Championship match of 2015 as Ipswich Town host Derby County at Portman Road. Victory for the Tractor Boys would see them climb to the top of the table for a few hours at least, with current leaders Bournemouth not facing Norwich City until later in the day. Three points for Derby, meanwhile, would help them leapfrog Ipswich into the automatic promotion places and put them level at the summit. Both sides finished 2014 strongly and will go into this weekend's early kickoff full of confidence of maintaining their respective good form. Ipswich have not lost any of their last 12 games in all competitions, while they have only been beaten once since August. They faced a daunting test in the third round of the FA Cup as high-flying Premier League outfit Southampton awaited them at St Mary's, but Mick McCarthy's side proved some top-flight credentials by coming away with a 1-1 draw. The replay of that tie arrives on Wednesday, but for now they can't afford to let anything distract them from their promotion challenge. Their home form has been impeccable so far this season, with defeat to local rivals Norwich the only major blemish on their copybook. Indeed, no side has amassed more points in front of their own fans than Ipswich, while they have conceded a league-low seven goals at Portman Road in the process. They have won five in a row at home coming into this match, scoring 12 goals and conceding just two, while their recent record against the Rams here reads nine victories in their last 11 meetings. Jack Collison is back in training for the hosts but is not expected to be ready in time for this match despite McCarthy eyeing a couple of changes to his FA Cup outfit. Derby come into this match having quelled a potentially costly dip in form with back-to-back victories to end the year, although they did leave it late to make it three on the bounce against Southport in the FA Cup last Saturday. Dropped points against Middlesbrough and Norwich have handed the initiative to Bournemouth and Ipswich, but Steve McClaren will know that victory this weekend would swing things right back in his favour. He will be concerned by his side's recent record away from home, however, having lost three of their last five Championship outings on the road. Having said that, their last trip saw them take on Birmingham City at St Andrew's on Boxing Day, and they were able to come away with a resounding 4-0 victory. January has already seen Leon Best's time at the club come to an end, but McClaren has insisted that he will remain with the Rams despite speculation linking him to a move to Newcastle United. The former England boss has no new injury concerns to worry about going into this one, and could name an unchanged side to the one that dispatched of Leeds United in their last Championship outing. The match could turn out to be a battle between two of the league's deadliest strikers, with top-scorer Daryl Murphy and Derby's Chris Martin looking to fire their side to victory.