Championship Preview: Boro host Derby in top of the table clash
1st January 2016

The first Championship fixtures of 2016 sees leaders Middlesbrough take on second-placed Derby County at the Riverside Stadium.

Boro went back to the top of the table, one point ahead of their visitors, due to their 1-0 win against Sheffield Wednesday and the Rams’ 2-2 draw at Leeds.

Aitor Karanka’s side have won nine of their 12 league matches on Teeside, while Paul Clement’s County have only lost once on the road.

Third-placed Hull have the chance to temporarily close the gap on the top-two when they take on QPR on New Year’s Day.

The Tigers, who are four points behind Derby, have lost their last two away games at Rotherham and Preston so will be looking for a much improved showing when they head to Loftus Road.

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink is still looking for his first win as R’s boss having drawn four and lost one of his opening five matches.

Also on New Year’s Day, fourth-placed Brighton will look to end a two-game losing streak at the Amex when the take on Wolverhampton Wanderers.

The Seagulls, who didn’t lose for 21 matches, have not won in their last five and are now four points adrift of Derby.

Chris Hughton’s team, which has been boosted by the six-week loan signing of defender Liam Ridgewell, now face a Wolves side on a two-game winning streak and with five away victories under their belt already this term.

29th March 2014 - Barclays Premier League - West Bromwich Albion v Cardiff City -  Liam Ridgewell of West Bromwich Albion celebrates his sides opening goal scored by Morgan Amalfitano of West Bromwich Albion - Photo: Paul Roberts / Offside.

Brighton have signed former Aston Villa, Birmingham and West Brom defender Liam Ridgewell on a six-week loan from Portland Timbers

On Saturday, the other two teams in the top-six, Burnley and Ipswich, go head to head at Turf Moor.

The Clarets, who are seven points off the automatic promotion spots, have won their last two home matches 4-0 and in striker Andre Gray have a player who’s scored 12 goals in nine home matches since signing from Brentford.

Mick McCarthy’s Tractor Boys though have won their last five matches away from home after their 1-0 win at Brighton on Tuesday.

At the bottom, Bolton Wanderers will be hoping to build on their first victory in 17 matches when they face Huddersfield at the Macron.

The Trotters’ 1-0 victory over Blackburn was just their second all season but one that moved them to within four points of safety.

David Wagner’s Huddersfield are four points above the drop after picking up four points from their last two outings, but his side will need to improve on just two away victories all season if they are to pull clear of the bottom-three.

Charlton Athletic could slip to the bottom of the table if Bolton win and the fail to beat Nottingham Forest at The Valley.

Interim boss Karel Fraeye doesn’t seem to be under any pressure from the board despite having won just two of his 11 matches in charge, as the Addicks, who haven’t won in seven, sit two points from safety.

With the London side in such poor form, Forest, who are 14th and 10 points off the play-offs, will be confident of extending their unbeaten run to eight matches.

After their 4-0 thrashing at Burnley, Bristol City occupy the other relegation spot and need to pick up results fast if they are to avoid relegation straight back to League One.

The Robins travel to Reading looking to pick up just their third away win of the season against a side who have lost their last two matches since defeating Blackburn in Brian McDermott’s first game since he returned to the Madejski.

Just above the drop zone sit Rotherham United, who make the trip to Preston North End.

Following two successive wins, the Millers were brought crashing down to earth with a 4-1 defeat at Fulham last time out, and now face a North End side which has lost just three times at Deepdale all season.

Lilywhites boss Simon Grayson will have Sam Johnstone available after re-signing the goalkeeper from Manchester United on New Year’s Eve.

16 February 2015 - The FA Cup Fifth Round - Preston North End v Manchester United - Simon Grayson, Manager of Preston North End - Photo: Marc Atkins / Offside.

Preston boss Simon Grayson has seen his side lose just four of their last 16 league matches

MK Dons face a tough trip to Leeds knowing if results go against them they could find themselves in the drop zone once again.

Karl Robinson’s side are just a point above the bottom-three and have won just once on the road all season, while Steve Evans’ hosts are six unbeaten and are nine points off the top-six.

Elsewhere, Cardiff and Blackburn will both be hoping to end three-game winless streaks when they meet in South Wales, while Fulham will be hoping for a second consecutive win when Slavisa Jokanovic takes charge for the first time against seventh-placed Sheffield Wednesday at Craven Cottage.

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