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January 10, 2014 / ultrafox1963

League Leaders Face Key Test

Return of the Mac - Steve McClaren is back at Derby, 12 years after leaving for Middlesbrough

Return of the Mac – Steve McClaren is back at Derby, 12 years after leaving for Middlesbrough

Leicester City have the opportunity to move SEVEN points clear at the top of the Championship with a win over East Midlands rivals Derby County this evening.

The Foxes will be looking to continue the momentum established after four successive league victories during the Christmas/New Year period.

But the visitors, rejuvenated since the arrival of new manager Steve McClaren three months ago, will be looking for a victory of their own to maintain their own promotion challenge.

The sides have already met twice this season, with Leicester prevalent on both occasions. A Lee Grant own goal separated the sides in a tense, scrappy encounter at Derby in August, while a Danny Drinkwater goal earned the Foxes victory in a League Cup clash the following month.

Both sides bowed out of the FA Cup last weekend against Premier League opposition, but will have been reasonably satisfied with the spirit shown during those defeats.

For the Foxes, David Nugent was again on the scoresheet during the defeat at Stoke, the first time this season that he has found the net from open play in successive games.

Meanwhile Derby midfielder Will Hughes displayed frequent flashes of the talent which has attracted the interest of several leading top-flight clubs, as his side went down 2-0 at home to Chelsea.

Tonight’s visitors will be looking to improve on a dismal record at Filbert Way where they have failed to win on each of their previous nine attempts and have lost on each of their last four visits.

Derby’s away form in the Championship this season has been exceptional, with eight wins and two draws so far. Their only defeats came at Nottingham Forest and fellow promotion hopefuls Queens Park Rangers.

The arrival of McClaren, who succeeded Nigel Clough following the defeat at the City Ground, has given the club a real lift. Widely regarded as the region’s poor relations earlier in the season, the Rams now entertain genuine hopes of a return to the top flight for the first time since their ignominious exit in 2008.

McClaren’s achievements are all the more remarkable in that they have mainly been produced by the signings made by his predecessor. He will now hope to strengthen his side’s position further by adding to his squad during this month’s transfer window.

Indeed, were it not for a sponsorship deal which has seen the club’s home rebranded as the iPro Stadium, McClaren could have been described as the man who brought the pride back to Pride Park.

The presence of the Sky cameras, together with increased ticket prices following the designation of the game as a “premium” fixture, mean that the crowd is unlikely to reflect the importance of the clash to both teams.

However, if the Foxes show the form that saw them clinch victories over Reading and Bolton in the previous two home games, they will be confident of securing their tenth home league win of the season, and taking another step towards clinching the Championship crown.

A full, EXCLUSIVE, report of the match will be published here at 12 noon on Saturday January 11.

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