Middlesbrough will be looking to record their seventh Championship victory in their last eight league outings in order to take another step closer towards the title and subsequent promotion to the Premier League.
Aitor Karanka’s side, who drew 1-1 with runners-up Burnley in midweek, will be hopeful of returning to winning ways when they take on Ipswich Town at the Riverside Stadium to at least maintain their two-point gap.
Second-placed Burnley will be waiting in the wings if Boro slip-up against the Tractor Boys, with Sean Dyche’s Clarets visiting newly promoted Preston North End in Friday night’s encounter at Deepdale.
The away side, who had star striker Andre Gray crowned the Championship’s Player of the Year last weekend, can go top of the table for at least a number of hours should they snatch all three points from Simon Grayson’s hosts.
Level on points with Burnley in third spot is Brighton and Hove Albion, fresh off the back of their 4-0 annihilation of Queens Park Rangers on Tuesday, who travel to already relegated Charlton Athletic with the prospect of climbing into the automatic promotion spots this weekend.
Meanwhile at the very bottom of the league table; fellow League One bound outfit Bolton Wanderers visit Wales to compete with Cardiff City, who lie six points adrift of the Championship’s play-offs, plus Milton Keynes Dons face a must-win encounter at home to Brentford.
Only all three points against the Bees can salvage any hope of Karl Robinson’s side beating the drop, although that reality looks incredibly unlikely given they are nine points adrift of preserving their Championship status, with only nine points left to play for.
That means if any of the likes of Bristol City, Rotherham United, Fulham, Nottingham Forest or Blackburn Rovers, who are all locked on 48 points with three games remaining, avoid defeat this weekend, then they will guarantee themselves safety and pile more pressure on third-bottom MK Dons – who look set to return to League One after only one-year in the English second-tier this term.
Bristol City travel to fellow lowly outfit Blackburn, Rotherham United head to Molineux to take on Wolverhampton Wanderers and Fulham host Nottingham Forest at Craven Cottage in a trio of vital fixtures near the bottom of the Championship.
Back to the promotion party; the division’s early Saturday kick-off (12:30) sees fifth-place Derby County welcome sixth-placed Sheffield Wednesday at the iPro Stadium, with the Owls needing just a draw to ensure they obtain a top-six finish come next month.
The remaining fixtures see Huddersfield Town play Birmingham City, fourth-placed Hull City continue their faint hopes of automatic promotion at home to Leeds United and mid-table QPR host Reading at Loftus Road.