The Rams head to St Andrews tonight for the top of the table clash with Birmingham City. A win at the Blues will give the Pride Park side a handy advantage in the promotion race, but it will be a difficult encounter.
Rams boss Billy Davies reckons the pressure will be on the home side to perform.
The Rams went back to the top of the table on Tuesday, with their 2-1 win at Norwich City, and opened up a two-point gap ahead of Birmingham City.
“It’s a big game of course for both clubs,’ Davies said
“But the pressure is on the home side because they can’t afford to lose the game.
“We will certainly go down there knowing that if we win the match then the gap will be very good for us at this stage of the season.
“We will go down with confidence, to be positive, and certainly with the aim of picking up three points.”
Birmingham boss Steve Bruce has urged his players to be fearless when the Blues take on the Rams. Earlier in the season, Bruce was under pressure after a poor run of results, and a lose at Pride Park might of seen him lose his job, but a 1-0 win helped Bruce to hold onto his job. Ahead of the top of the table clash Bruce said: “I’ve tried to tell them, ‘Have no fear’. This is what we’re all in it for. If we can win six or seven of our last 11, we’ll be in a fantastic position.
“I said at the outset that if we finished above Albion, we’d be there or thereabouts.
“It’s very tight, and tonight`s game will be tough. All eight clubs are capable of putting together a run. Look at Sunderland – 26 points from 30 is incredible.”
Last time out the Blues beat fellow promotion candidates Cardiff City 1-0 at St Andrews. The team for that game was
GK Colin Doyle, Stephen Kelly, Mat Sadler, Bruno N’Gotty, Martin Taylor; Gary McSheffrey, Fabrice Muamba (Mehdi Nafti 72), Stephen Clemence, Sebastian Larsson, Rowan Vine (Cameron Jerome 84), Nicklas Bendtner.
Subs (not used): Maik Taylor, Julian Gray, DJ Campbell.
Birmingham City Team News:
Birmingham striker Mikael Forssell is back in the squad after returning to fitness following knee surgery.
Damien Johnson is fit after a hamstring problem as manager Steve Bruce has a fully fit squad to select from.
Player to watch: Gary McSheffrey
He was a great signing from Coventry City this season, scoring 13 goals. He will be a huge threat for the Rams, and he will have to marked closely. Give him any room and he will punish Billy Davies side.
Derby County Team News:
Derby are without defender Michael Johnson with a torn hamstring. Also Stephen Pearson is in doubt with an ankle injury. Duo Richard Jackson and Paul Boertien are the only other squad members missing
Player to watch: David Jones
The former Man United youngster has fitted in well at Pride Park, and comes of a brace at Norwich. He is dangerous going forward and will cause the Blues a great deal of problems if not marked closely.
Last Time we Met at St Andrews
Birmingham City 1 Derby County 4 – 21st November 1995
This was Derby’s best 90 minutes since they beat Middlesbrough 4-2 at Ayresome Park last March and plenty has changed since then.
Sturridge gave Andy Edwards a taste of his speed even before the opening goal, which was a classic. Robin van der Laan, the best player the field, split Birmingham’s defence with a perfect pass. The run by Sturridge was equally good and he nudged his shot wide of Ian Bennett. Birmingham tried to battle back but Russell Hoult saved a low shot from Ricky Otto.
Hoult blocked Michael Johnson’s strong header, from a corner, and Lee Carsley flung himself to complete the clearance. There was some defending to be done but, all the time, Derby was liable to create problems.
One pass by van der Laan, with the outside of the foot to Gabbiadini, was sheer class and the front two helped by taking such good positions.
Birmingham had no answer to Sturridge when Derby improved their lead after 39 minutes. Johnson could only touch on van der Laan’s powerful header and Sturridge was away, cutting the ball across for Willems to turn it in cleverly.
Gary Rowett was judged to have pushed Steve Claridge, giving Ward the chance to beat Hoult with a low penalty, but the decisive goal was Derby’s third.
Powell freed Sturridge with a fine pass up the left, the centre was perfect and Gabbiadini, having pulled off into a good position, sent his header back across Bennett and in off a post.
That persuaded Birmingham and their crowd that they were going uphill, although Hoult made an important save with his legs from Ken Charlery. His most spectacular was near the end, a flying catch from Claridge.
By then, Derby had the comfort of another goal. Carsley’s free kick was headed out but Rowett returned it to Gabbiadini, who held off the challenges to play the ball into the penalty area.
Powell’s first touch took him through, the s
It will be hard work for the Rams especially after playing at Norwich on Tuesday. A win would be great, but I`ll go for:
Birmingham City 2 Derby County 2