Match preview: Ipswich Town v Bristol City – In-form Robins should provide a tougher test than Sunderland

Grant Ward gets a hug from David McGoldrick after scoring Ipswich Town's fifth against Sunderland on

Grant Ward gets a hug from David McGoldrick after scoring Ipswich Town's fifth against Sunderland on Tuesday night. It took the Blues until December 13 to net their current tally of 19 league goals last season. Photo: PAGEPIX LTD - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Ipswich Town host Bristol City in a Championship match at Portman Road on Saturday. STUART WATSON previews a match between two in-form sides.

Bristol City's Famara Diedhiou (right) celebrates scoring in a 2-0 Carabao Cup win against Stoke. Th

Bristol City's Famara Diedhiou (right) celebrates scoring in a 2-0 Carabao Cup win against Stoke. The Robins haven't lost at Ashton Gate since February and are unbeaten in 10 games across all competitions. Photo: PA - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Blues have belief

Town thrashed struggling Sunderland 5-2 at Portman Road on Tuesday night with a swashbuckling attacking display. The transformation from dull as ditch water last season into the Championship’s great entertainers has been remarkable.

Mick McCarthy’s men are the division’s leading scorers with 19 goals, fifth in the table, yet to draw and still have a game in hand on most.

The only ‘but’ is that five of their six wins have come against the quintet currently propping up the rest (Bolton, Sunderland, Birmingham, Barnsley and Brentford). Let’s not forget that thy played really well in last Saturday’s narrow 3-2 defeat at high-flying Leeds though.

Bristol City manager Lee Johnson came under pressure from supporters during the club's relegation fi

Bristol City manager Lee Johnson came under pressure from supporters during the club's relegation fight last season, but never from owner Steve Lansdown. Photo: PA - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

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The Blues undoubtedly have their belief back. There’s growing similarities between this squad and the one which beat the odds to finish sixth in 2014/15.

• Confidence is sky-high, says Martyn Waghorn

Robins flying too

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Bristol City were embroiled in a relegation scrap from most of last season, but manager Lee Johnson rode the storm and masterminded six wins from the final 10 games to finish three points clear of the drop zone. The Robins have since carried that form into the new campaign.

Their sole defeat so far was 2-1 at Birmingham back on August 12 and, by all accounts, that was one of their better displays.

They’ll arrive at Portman Road unbeaten in 10 games across all competitions. Premier League duo Watford and Stoke have been dumped out the Carabao Cup to set up a last 16 tie with Crystal Palace. Tuesday night’s 2-0 home win over Bolton puts them seventh in the standings, one point behind Town.

They’ve also beaten Barnsley, Reading and Derby in the league, drawing with Brentford, Millwall, Aston Villa, Wolves and Norwich, battling to a goalless draw at Carrow Road last weekend.

City are unlikely to crumble like struggling Sunderland did.

• Let’s let visiting sides worry about us, says Cole Skuse

How Robins have done it

There wasn’t a massive overhaul of players at Ashton gate this summer. Attacking midfielder Lee Tomlin was a key departure, but they kept hold of star centre-back Aden Flint, while owner Steve Lansdown funded a club-record £5.3m deal for Senegalese striker Famara Diedhiou (signed from French club Angers, just like Jonathan Kodjia was).

Experienced defender Nathan Baker (Aston Villa, reported £4m), as well as young attacking loanees Jonathan Leko (West Brom) and Cauley Woodrow (Fulham) – both of whom were linked to Town over the summer – have also bolstered the squad.

Johnson has played a 4-4-2 system. Converting midfielder Bobby Reid into a striker has proved a masterstroke, with the 24-year-old scoring six goals already. Joe Bryan has been hailed as pone of the best left-backs in the league, ex-Norwich midfielder Korey Smith plays an unsung holding role, while Flint is a major threat at set-pieces.

• On the front foot at last! Eight observations from Town’s 5-2 thrashing of Sunderland

Team news

McCarthy played a bold 4-2-3-1 system in midweek, with Martyn Waghorn, David McGoldrick and Bersant Celina in support of striker Joe Garner. In the build-up, unusually, he said he hadn’t watched the Black Cats and instead was concentrating on what his side was capable of. Afterwards he said he’d backed his offensive players to outshine Sunderland’s, but added ‘it won’t work every week’.

Will it be an unchanged side? McCarthy rarely messes much with a winning formula. Or might he see Grant Ward, a goalscorer off the bench in midweek, a more reliable option than Celina?

For Bristol City, midfielder Marlon Pack is suspended after picking up his fifth booking of the season. That could see Josh Brownhill move inside and either Leko or Callum O’Dowda play on the right. This game looks to have come too soon for Italian right-back Eros Pisano (knee).

• Watch the highlights of Town’s five-star display

Stand by your man

Bristol City stuck by 36-year-old boss Lee Johnson during troubled times last season, something his former Robins team-mate Cole Skuse was pleased to see.

Town’s midfielder, who joined City at the age of nine and racked up close to 300 appearances for his boyhood club, said: “Some managers get three or four games nowadays and are straight out the door, which is a sad state of affairs. It’s great they stuck by him and a long-term plan. That’s paid off for them.

“I’m always in contact with Lee. He’s a very strong character and just kept plugging away. I’m glad he’s turned it around and got everybody back on side.

“You could always see he was going to be a great coach and he’s got a great group of players there. Saturday aside, I hope they do ok.”

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