The Sky Sports cameras will be in East Anglia this Saturday afternoon as Ipswich Town host Derby County in the Sky Bet Championship, and we've taken a closer look at the match.With Ipswich sitting second in the table and Derby two points behind in third, a place in the automatic promotion places is on the line.
Mick McCarthy’s men haven’t lost any of their last 10 league games, and have recorded an impressive eight wins in that time. Their most recent league triumph was a comfortable 3-0 success over Charlton Athletic, and they also held Premier League high-flyers Southampton to a 1-1 draw in the FA Cup last weekend.
Derby , like their opponents, will play their first Sky Bet Championship game of 2015, and their latest league victory came against Leeds United on 30th December, when defender Jake Buxton sealed all three points.
Saturday’s clash will see the division’s two top goalscorers go up against each other, with Ipswich’s Daryl Murphy and Derby’s Chris Martin set to lock horns. The pair have a total of 31 goals between them this season, and Murphy’s efforts last month were enough to see him win the Sky Bet Championship Player of the Month award for December.
The last three meetings between these two teams has produced a total of 14 goals, which included a 4-4 thriller back in October 2013.
That game saw four goals scored in the first 15 minutes of the game, with the likes of Craig Bryson and Jamie Ward hitting the net for Derby that day, and Daryl Murphy and Christophe Berra striking for Ipswich.
Overall, the head-to head records reads in Ipswich’s favour - they’ve posted 33 wins to Derby’s 24 in the history of the fixture.
Ipswich manager Mick McCarthy will be without forward Conor Sammon who is ineligible to play against his parent club, but midfielder Jay Tabb could return after he missed the cup clash with Southampton through illness.
Darren Bent is expected to make his debut for Derby after arriving on loan from Aston Villa, but defensive duo Shaun Barker and Zak Whitbread definitely out of the trip to Portman Road. George Thorne will also miss out, but he could return next week following his lengthy lay-off.
IN THE MEDIA
Ipswich front man Noel Hunt is back with the club for the remainder of the season, following his successful loan spell from Leeds United towards the end of 2014.
Hunt appeared four times throughout November and December, and scored a dramatic winner to seal the points against Charlton Athletic on his debut for the Tractor Boys. The 32-year-old now wants to build on his strong performances and contribute for the rest of the season.
“I’m delighted to be back here and the boys were great with me when I walked back through the door on Thursday,” Hunt told itfc.co.uk.
“It happened really quickly because I only left Leeds the day before but once I knew there was a chance to come back to Ipswich, I spoke to my missus and my agent and we all agreed to go for it.
“I really enjoyed my month here and I’m just delighted to be back permanently now. Hopefully I can contribute from now until the end of the season and help the boys in any way I can.
“There’s a good feel about Ipswich Town right now. The spirit at the Club is excellent and the gaffer has been brilliant with me.
“I’m looking forward to starting again and hopefully I can be involved against Derby.”
In the opposite dugout, Derby boss Steve McClaren is relishing a top-of-the-table clash this weekend, and is keen to avoid defeat in another crunch match, following the loss to fellow promotion chasers Middlesbrough last month.
Returning to Portman Road for the first time since leaving, but playing for Derby, will be Darren Bent, who has signed for the Rams on a loan deal until the end of the season.
Bent appeared 141 times in an Ipswich shirt between 2001 and 2005, scoring 56 goals. He was signed as a 14-year-old by the Tractor Boys, and made his professional debut in a UEFA Cup match against Helsingborgs IF.
Speaking ahead of his return to his old club, Bent told dcfc.co.uk: “I spent seven or eight great years at Ipswich Town. I started off as a schoolboy, made my way up through their ranks and managed to play in their team regularly before I went to Charlton.
“George Burley gave me my debut, he was the one who started it all off. When I was kid, all we ever did under George was passing exercises.
“It was the same in the first team and he did the very same thing when he was at Derby as well. The similarities to how Derby play now are very alike.
“I have some great memories from my time there. They gave me the platform to go and make a career out of the game.”
The Sky Sports cameras will be at Portman Road to capture all the action, and we'll be tweeting updates from the official Sky Bet Championship Twitter account - @SkyBetChamp. Join in the conversation using #Championship.