Championship Preview: Derby target response

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Paul Simpson has called on Derby County to show their mettle in a trip to fellow Championship title-chasers Norwich City on Saturday.

The battle for automatic promotion has intensified in recent weeks, with four sides now level on 66 points, while Norwich are only a point behind.

Derby sit second on goal difference, but spurned the chance to put back-to-back defeats firmly behind them when they drew 2-2 with Birmingham City last weekend, despite leading 2-0 in injury-time.

And Derby assistant manager Simpson has urged his side to reassert their title credentials at Carrow Road.

"We have to deal with the occasion - it will be noisy with a big crowd there and there will also be expectation from ourselves and our fans," he told the club's official website.

"We have to be the team that deals with every setback or knock [and has the] strongest mentality.

"We need to do our jobs and if we do that, we don't have to think about what other teams are doing."

Bournemouth, top of the table on goal difference, face the easiest task of all those challenging for the title this weekend as they host bottom-placed Blackpool.

Lee Clark's hapless Blackpool have won just four games all season and were beaten 6-1 at home in the reverse fixture just before Christmas.

Middlesbrough entertain Ipswich Town - themselves just five points off top spot - in Saturday's early kick-off.

Aitor Karanka's men were beaten 2-1 at Nottingham Forest last time out and will be eager to secure all three points ahead of a daunting week that sees them travel to both Derby and Bournemouth.

Third-placed Watford's charge was checked by a 2-2 draw at Wolves last weekend, but the visit of mid-table Reading - who are sure to have one eye on their FA Cup quarter-final replay against Bradford City - provides a good opportunity for them to get back on track. 

Brentford are another team who cannot be ruled out of the title picture and they entertain Cardiff City on Saturday.

Millwall, who sit second bottom and eight points adrift of safety, begin life after Ian Holloway - sacked on Tuesday - at Bolton Wanderers, while fellow strugglers Wigan Athletic travel to Rotherham United.

Two in-form sides meet at Elland Road as Leeds United entertain Forest, and play-off-chasing Wolves head south to Brighton and Hove Albion.

Elsewhere, Charlton Athletic host Blackburn Rovers, Sheffield Wednesday play Fulham and Huddersfield Town travel to Birmingham.