MX23RW : Friday, May 24 06:24:19| >> :600:108747422:108747422:
Dec 12, 2015 at 3pm UK at ​Pride Park
Attendance: 30,537
DerbyDerby County
BrightonBrighton & Hove Albion
Johnson (41'), Martin (88' pen.)
FT(HT: 1-1)
Wilson (22'), van La Parra (75')

Preview: Derby County vs. Brighton & Hove Albion

Sports Mole previews Saturday's Championship showdown between promotion-chasing sides Derby County and Brighton & Hove Albion at the iPro Stadium.

Brighton & Hove Albion head to fellow automatic promotion challengers Derby County on Saturday afternoon aiming to set a new Championship record for games unbeaten from the start of a season.

The Seagulls have yet to taste defeat in any of their opening 19 fixtures, meaning that should they avoid defeat at the iPro they will edge past Queens Park Rangers as outright holders of the impressive achievement.

Derby County

Tomer Hemed of Brighton celebrates with team mates after scoring the teams third and winning goal of the game during the Sky Bet Championship match between Brighton and Hove Albion and Charlton Athletic at The Amex Stadium on December 05, 2015© Getty Images

County's push for a top-two finish may have shown the odd sign of slowing up over the past month, with only two wins from their last four games, but in the context of things there is no side in better form right now.

Last week's stalemate against Sheffield Wednesday was far from a Championship classic, while defeat to arch-rivals Nottingham Forest was also hard to take, yet 33 points from the last 42 on offer has the Rams dreaming of a top-flight return.

Saturday's meeting with Brighton presents the fourth fixture in a tricky run of games, following the successfully-navigated meetings with Cardiff City and Hull City on top of that clash against promotion-hunting Wednesday.

After making a slow start to the campaign, Derby are now right on track but still just a couple of points short of their intended target of the top two.

It was arguably in that 2-0 win over then-top side Hull when many began to truly sit up and take notice of Derby's push for the summit, but while County dropped points last time out others around them were back on the winning trail.

Having had to play catch-up for large parts, Paul Clement can finally set his sights on keeping in touching distance with the fellow big boys, although the fixtures do not really get any kinder across the festive period.

It is at home where the Rams will truly look to continue building momentum, having won each of the last five games at the iPro where they have scored 12 goals in the process.

Chris Martin is continuing to prove a key figure up top, meanwhile, playing a part in 11 goals for his side this term to put him behind only Andre Gray (14), Ross McCormack and Alan Judge (both 13) in terms of the division's most influential figures.

Recent form in Championship: WWLWWD

Brighton & Hove Albion

Tomer Hemed of Brighton celebrates with team mates after scoring the teams third and winning goal of the game during the Sky Bet Championship match between Brighton and Hove Albion and Charlton Athletic at The Amex Stadium on December 05, 2015© Getty Images

Two goals down at home to strugglers Charlton Athletic with just 40 minutes left to play, many inside The Amex must surely have assumed that Brighton's four-month unbeaten run was heading to an end.

Not only did the Seagulls pull back two goals to rescue themselves a point, though, but Tomer Hemed also found the net late on to seal an incredible comeback victory for the Championship pacesetters.

Hemed is proving to be an inspired signing, with that header against Charlton from the bench making it nine goals that he has played a part in this term - the same number Joao Teixeira managed throughout the whole of last season when leading the way for Albion.

Even at this stage of the season, nearly halfway through, many pundits are expecting Brighton to slowly slip away from their position atop the table before eventually making do with a playoff spot.

Chris Hughton has certainly tried his best to play down expectations himself, yet the capture of James Wilson on an emergency loan deal last month sent out a clear message to the rest of the division.

Albion also have a little breathing space at the top, too, thanks to that late win last time out, sitting four points clear of their opponents heading into this weekend's huge showdown in the East Midlands.

That cushion may come in handy, as Hughton's men follow up Saturday's match by facing a seemingly rejuvenated Queens Park Rangers, before taking in games against fellow promotion hopefuls Middlesbrough, Brentford and Ipswich Town before the year is out.

Keeping their unbeaten record intact may be tough over the coming weeks, then, but Brighton have already passed many tests with flying colours already and are well positioned to earn a place in the Premier League for the first time ever.

Recent form in Championship: DDWDWW

Team News

Scott Carson of Derby County reacts after teamate Johnny Russell scored during the Sky Bet Championship match between Derby County and Middlesbrough at Pride Park Stadium on August 18, 2015© Getty Images

The back injury that kept Scott Carson out of last week's meeting with Wednesday is still causing a problem, so Lee Grant is expected to start in goal once more.

Stephen Warnock was left battered and bruised before being taken off at Hillsborough, but Clement believes that the full-back will be fully fit to play a part against Brighton.

After missing the previous week's match through suspension, Jacob Butterfield slotted back in nicely last time out which could potentially mean an unchanged side named at the iPro.

With Gaetan Bong and Liam Rosenior already ruled out, Hughton will be desperately hoping to see Inigo Calderon declare himself fully fit at left-back.

The Spaniard took part in training on Thursday and is therefore likely to play some part, while Adam Chicksen is on standby to fill in should he be required.

Andrew Crofts is still a few days away from making a comeback, though, with his return pencilled in for next Tuesday's meeting with QPR at Loftus Road.

Brighton & Hove Albion possible starting lineup:
Stockdale; Bruno, Dunk, Greer, Calderon; Mach, Stephens, Kayal, Murphy; Wilson, Hemed

Derby County possible starting lineup:
Grant; Christie, Keogh, Shackell, Baird; Johnson, Thorne, Butterfield; Russell, Martin, Weimann

Head To Head

Derby have won five of their last six matches against Brighton in regular league competition, but that solitary defeat did come last time out.

Albion claimed a 2-0 victory at The Amex in March to cost the Rams a place at the top of the Championship table.

The Seagulls have failed to score in their last three regular league away trips to Derby, although they did bag one when losing 4-1 in 2014's playoff semi-final clash.

Bobby Zamora, who is part of Brighton's squad this weekend, went on to score the winner for QPR in the final that year to crush County hearts.

Sports Mole Logo

We say: Derby County 2-1 Brighton & Hove Albion

Brighton are the best home side in the division, while opponents Derby are the second tier's finest side on the road, but with this encounter being contested at the iPro anything goes. That said, County have won their last five home matches - a run that has helped spearhead a push for the top two - which they will build on at the weekend to finally put an end to the Seagulls' mightily impressive unbeaten run.

Who will win Saturday afternoon's Championship encounter at the iPro Stadium?

Derby County
Brighton & Hove Albion
Derby County
Brighton & Hove Albion
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Aitor Karanka, manager of Middlesborough during the Sky Bet Championship match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Middlesborough at Molineux Stadium on October 24, 2015
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