Apr 5, 2014 at 3pm UK at ​Riverside Stadium
Middlesbrough
1-0
DerbyDerby County
Chalobah (69')
Leadbitter (35'), Friend (77')
FT(HT: 0-0)

Bamford (58'), Thorne (82')

Preview: Middlesbrough vs. Derby County

Manager of Derby County Steve McClaren looks on during the Sky Bet Championship match between Derby County and Leeds United at Pride Park Stadium on October 05, 2013
© Getty Images
Sports Mole previews Saturday's Championship clash between Middlesbrough and Derby County at the Riverside.

With Derby County's place in the playoffs now all but secured, they will look Saturday's match against MIddlesbrough at the Riverside as a chance to overhaul Queens Park Rangers in third place.

A kinder playoff draw is the reward for the team that finishes one below the automatic promotion spots, and with just one point separating QPR and Derby in the table that will be the Rams' aim for the final seven matches of the season.

Despite only having to look across the East Midlands to fierce rivals Nottingham Forest to see how a sudden drop in form can turn a season around, Derby will be quietly confident that their top-six spot is sewn up with an 11-point advantage over Forest and Ipswich Town.

With their own bad patch of form seemingly over following convincing victories over Forest and Charlton Athletic in two of their last three outings, Steve McClaren can now look up the table and begin preparing his side for the playoffs.

They have goal difference in their favour in the battle for third place, a factor helped largely by their 69 goals in the league this season - a tally only leaders Leicester City can beat.

However, a major worry for McClaren will be his side's away form ahead of a potential trip to Wembley. The Rams have won just once on the road since the turn of the year and have only scored one goal in their last three away outings.

Long-term absentee Paul Coutts remains out, and he is likely to be joined on the sidelines by Will Hughes and Jamie Ward, both of whom are major doubts.

For Middlesbrough, a top-half finish is now their only realistic goal for the final seven matches of the season. They trail 12th-placed Watford by three points, although the Hornets do have a game in hand.

Aitor Karanka's side have only lost once in their last six matches, although draws have once again been responsible for too many dropped points in that time. No team has shared the spoils on more occasions than Boro this season, who have seen 16 of their 39 matches finish all square.

They will look to build upon a 2-0 win over Brighton & Hove Albion in their last outing, however, as they attempt to record back-to-back wins for the first time since January.

Karanka will be looking towards next season now and could continue with youngster Luke Williams in the side, but Mustapha Carayol and Jonathan Woodgate remain out.

Recent form

Middlesbrough: WDDLDW

Derby: DDWWLW

Possible starting lineups

Middlesbrough: Konstantopoulos; Varga, Omeruo, Gibson, Friend; Whitehead, Chalobah; Amoah, Butterfield, Williams; Graham

Derby: Grant; Wisdom, Keogh, Buxton, Forsyth; Eustace, Hendrick, Bryson; Bamford, Martin, Russell

Sports Mole says: 1-1

Oscar Garcia of Brighton looks on during the FA Cup fifth round match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Hull City at Amex Stadium on February 17, 2014
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