Mick McCarthy believes Derby County are the Championship’s best team

A happy Mick McCarthy at Fulham

A happy Mick McCarthy at Fulham

Ipswich Town manager Mick McCarthy believes his side host the Championship’s best team today in the form of Derby County.

The Rams are third in the table, two points behind Middlesbrough and Brighton, but they are very much the division’s form side having won 11 of their last 16 matches.

“We are playing, I think, the best team and the best squad in the league,” said McCarthy.

“They’ve gone out on a limb with how much they’ve spent, yes that puts pressure on them, but I have to say they look the real deal to me.”

Asked which of the Rams’ big-money summer recruits most took him by surprise, the Blues boss replied: “(Bradley) Johnson stands out for me. Norwich get promoted to the Premier League and he was outstanding, so I was surprised they let him go.

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“But if what I hear about the fee they paid for him and the wages they are paying him is true then maybe it’s not such a big surprise. We could probably get five players for that.

“They’ve spent big on (Tom) Ince and (Darren) Bent, (George) Thorne a few years ago too. Good luck to them. I’ve got no envy in me at all. It makes it all the more pleasurable when we beat some of these teams.

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“We certainly need to get a result against one of the best teams because we’ve lost to Hull, we’ve lost to Brighton and we’ve lost to Middlesbrough.”

Ipswich have won five of their last seven games to surge up the table, although that quintet of victories all came against teams in the bottom seven.

By contrast, they have registered just two wins against current top-half teams all season and those – against Burnley and Sheffield Wednesday – came back in August.

“I would say a top-two finish is looking unrealistic for us at the moment,” said McCarthy. “Not because we can’t get the points, because I think we’re doing well, but because the league is so much tougher.

“We’ve now got Derby, a resurgent QPR at home and then Brighton and Burnley away. That could put a bit of manners on us after wins at MK Dons and Fulham. These are different games. It’s a tougher league, it really is a tougher league. There are plenty below us capable of good runs too.

“I think it’s going to be hard enough to finish in the top six. We’ll all be trying to leapfrog each other. You can’t afford to drop your guard for a minute.”

– See today’s EADT for match preview

More all the build-up, live match updates and reactio from today’s game, log on to Match Centre

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