Boro To Trump Tractors Boys
Middlesbrough v Ipswich
Middlesbrough face Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich in another top of the table clash which could have a big bearing on one another’s promotion hopes.
Last week’s defeat at Nottingham Forest meant that Boro couldn’t capitalise on slip-ups by Derby and Watford and means that we have four teams tied on 66 points at the top of the Championship table, with Norwich just one behind on 65. This league has a reputation for being ultra competitive, but this season is proving to be more so than any other in recent history.
Despite still being very much in the thick of the battle for automatic promotion, Boro have now won only two and lost three of their last six Championship fixtures. On the flip side, they’ve lost only one of their last 14 fixtures at the Riverside and have conceded just 10 goals in their last 18 games at any venue.
Another positive for Aitor Karanka’s men is that goals are shared evenly throughout the squad. Grant Leadbitter and Patrick Bamford lead the way with 13 each, while Kike has 10, Lee Tomlin 8 and Jelle Vossen 7.
Ipswich also failed to capitalise on the misfortune of others when they were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Brentford last weekend and a run of three matches without a win mean that The Tractor Boys have slipped out of the play-off positions.
Daryl Murphy moved further clear as the division’s top scorer with his 22nd of the season last Saturday, and in doing so ended a relative drought of four games without a goal.
Anything less than three points here and Mick McCarthy’s men could see a gap begin to develop between themselves and the top 6.
Daniel Ayala is nearing a return to full fitness and could provide a timely boost for Boro on the run in to the end of the season, but Ryan Fredericks is unlikely to be available after he suffered a pulled hamstring in last week’s loss at Forest.
Dean Gerken replaced Bartosz Bialkowski between the sticks for Ipswich last week and is likely to retain his place in the side. David McGoldrick is back in training now and has an outside chance of being available here.
Goals from Daryl Murphy and Jay Tabb gave Ipswich a 2-0 win when the teams met at Portman Road earlier this season and the home side has won each of the last five meetings, with two goals from Danny Graham giving Boro a 2-0 win in this fixture last season.
Neither side are in particularly good form at present, but given their home record and a strong defensive record I have to side with Middlesbrough at odds of 20/23 here. I also like the look of the 2/1 available about the hosts winning the game without conceding a goal and the Middlesbrough/Under 2.5 Goals selection at 29/10.
As for goalscorers we simply have to side with Grant Leadbitter. As the club’s joint-top scorer and penalty taker he is grossly overpriced at odds of 15/2 to score first and 23/10 anytime.