Date: 30th September 2008 at 11:31am
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The confidence around Pride Park is higher than it has been probably since pre-Premiership days after a noticeable lift in performances, results and the new found battling spirit amongst the squad and what better way to finish a good month than with the visit of one of the top two in The Championship and the opportunity to measure this improvement against one of the divisions best?

Birmingham City came down with The Rams last season but in slightly better form and their recruitment over the summer has shown they are looking for a swift return to The Premiership and they have made some quality acquisitions to an already strong squad. Derby target Kevin Phillips and former Ram and fellow summer target Lee Carsley have been added with a wealth of top flight football experience and it is no coincidence the Everton have struggled defensively in the early weeks of the season since his departure. The Blues have certainly started well and are currently sitting in second place five points clear of Reading in third.

After a first away win in nearly eighteen months Derby finally have the monkey off their backs in terms of winless streaks and hopefully can now concentrate fully on the football. A result in this match could put The Rams into the top half of the table for the first time and have them looking up rather than down in terms of league position. Kris Commons appears to be the only slight doubt ahead of this clash after a hamstring injury and the settled team currently being selected is helping with the continuity in the side.

It`ll be interesting to see who starts up front tonight as none of the strikers have looked like forming a dangerous partnership as of yet, all have had their moments individually but a strong pairing up front is needed if The Rams are to score the goals to win this match. Tito Villa came off the bench after looking tired in training to score his first of the season and will be wanting a start in this one with Hulse and

Vital Quotes:

“To be honest, I am a bit surprised to have scored two goals already this season.”

“I normally only get one or two a season, and I`ve never scored two in a row before. I`ll be going for my hat-trick against Birmingham!”

New found goal scorer Martin Albrechtsen admits his surprise to the Derby Evening Telegraph

Derby County Team News:

Kris Commons may return after his hamstring injury although with Pearson in form in the last match he may have to settle for a place on the bench. Tito Villa pushing for a return to the starting line-up after grabbing his first goal at Loftus Road on Saturday.

Player to watch: Martin Albrechtsen

His free transfer in the summer is looking like a shrewd piece of business and his recent run of goal scoring form has seen him become the joint leading scorer in the league! Always a threat from set pieces in the air and the pivotal point at the back for The Rams the Dane is hoping to continue his recent form in this clash.

Birmingham City Team News:

Damien Johnson and Stephen Kelly look set to miss out again through injury but Mehdi Nafti returns from suspension to bolster The Blues` midfield options. A fully fit frontline means a tough choice between Cameron Jerome, Kevin Phillips, Gary O`Connor and Marcus Bent.

Player to watch: Kevin Phillips

A summer target for Derby and last seasons` second leading scorer in The Championship as West Brom powered their way to promotion, always dangerous even if coming off the bench and has previously scored a hat-trick at Pride Park whilst at Sunderland.

Match Facts & Stats

Last 5 results

Derby County
Barnsley (A) 0-2
Sheffield United (H) 2-1 Kilgallon (og), Hulse
Swansea City (A) 1-1 Pearson
Cardiff City (H) 1-1 Albrechtsen
Queens Park Rangers (A) 2-0 Albrechtsen, Villa

Birmingham City
Norwich City (A) 1-1 Larsson
Doncaster Rovers (H) 1-0 Jerome
Bristol City (A) 2-1 Carey (og), Jerome
Blackpool (H) 0-1
Cardiff City (A) 2-1 McFadden, Owusu-Abeyie

Match Prediction:

A chance for Derby to measure how far they have come in the last few weeks against one of the early season pace setters. Results bread confidence and The Rams are going into this one looking to pick something up from the team who came down from The Premiership with them last season, another draw to keep the unbeaten run going, 2-2.

Next Fixtures:

4th Oct v Norwich City (Coca Cola Championship) Carrow Road


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