Preview Championship: Watford vs Middlesbrough Apr 6, 2015

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Every Championship matchday seems to bring with it another huge encounter in the ridiculously close race for promotion to the Premier League, and Easter Monday is no different as two of the top four do battle at Vicarage Road.

Middlesbrough are the new league leaders after the games on Good Friday and now travel to Hertfordshire for a lunchtime kickoff against a Watford side looking to reclaim top spot following two games without a win.

Watford
Odion Ighalo of Watford (24) celebrates with Troy Deeney (9) and Almen Abdi (22) as he scores their first goal during the Sky Bet Championship match between Watford and Rotherham United at Vicarage Road on February 24, 2015

Two weeks ago the Hornets were top of the pile after 38 games of the season, but with just one point from a possible six since they are down to fourth and playing catch-up once more. Their recent winless run has coincided with overall poor form against the bigger teams around them. As we pointed out in our promotion race feature last month, the Hornets do not tend to do well against the top sides in the league.

Two weeks ago before the international break they failed to get a shot on target and conceded a last-gasp goal at home to Ipswich Town, while on Friday they can count themselves a little lucky to have taken a point from Derby County after Marco Motta was sent off shortly before half time.

A point at the iPro Stadium can be considered a decent one, but given that Derby had failed to win any of their last six encounters, Slavisa Jokanovic might feel it was a missed opportunity against the Rams. They were the last of the top four to play yesterday, so knew that top spot was theirs with a win as Bournemouth were held by Ipswich, but they are now two behind Boro and one adrift of the Cherries in second.

Their record against those around them might be poor, but Monday's game is Watford's last against one of their promotion rivals ahead of a relatively favourable end to the season.

Despite the recent lull, no-one has won more games than Watford (22) and no-one has scored more home goals (44). Overall they are averaging exactly two goals a game with 80 in total, second only to Bournemouth (83).

In fact, Watford have scored double the amount of goals at home (44) than Boro have on their travels (22), but the visitors do possess the meanest defence and enter the match at the summit.

Middlesbrough
Patrick Bamford of Middlesbrough celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the FA Cup Fourth Round match against Manchester City on January 24, 2015

Stingy Boro are back on top following yesterday's narrow 1-0 win over down-in-the-dumps Wigan Athletic. Aitor Karanka's side sent the Latics second-bottom, but it was a better win than it might first appear as Wigan had won their four previous away games.

Patrick Bamford has been in fine form of late and again proved to be the match-winner with his 15th league goal of the season and fifth in six games. The most recent four in that run have all proved vital winning goals for his side as the likes of Kike, Jelle Vossen and Lee Tomlin have gone off the boil.

By keeping Wigan out, Boro kept their league-best 18th clean sheet of the season. They have let in just 30 goals in 40 games - an average of 0.75 a game - and are clearly the standout defensive side in the league.

While Watford have a poor record against those around them, Boro have often been at their best against the other five sides in the playoff places and lead our top six head-to-head league. They will hope to build on that strong form against the best teams as half of their last six games are against others in the top eight.

They have been off-colour away from home recently, though, with three defeats in four games and just one win in six on their travels.

Watford possible starting lineup
Gomes; Anya, Cathcart, Angella, Hoban; Layun, Watson, Guedioura, Tozser; Deeney, Vydra

Boro possible starting lineup
Konstantopoulos; Kalas, Amorebieta, Gibson, Friend; Adomah, Clayton, Leadbitter, Vossen; Tomlin, Bamford

Tag : Championship
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