The Rams take on West Brom for the first time since the Derby victory in the May 2007 Play-Off final which saw The Rams win by a single goal to seal a return to the top flight. Today, the situation is different. The Baggies, managed by ex-Chelsea defender Roberto Di Matteo, sit in second place in the table and are hot favourites to return to the highest division in the English game, whereas Nigel Clough’s Derby side are languishing at the opposite end of the table, with only a good home record preventing them from being in the relegation places. Form at Pride Park has been excellent, and the team will need to be at their very best to emerge with anything from this game, especially as West Brom have scored eight in their last two, including four and a clean sheet in the away victory at Sheffield Wednesday.
In-form centre-back Dean Leacock is prepared for the size of the task his side face when The Baggies come to town: ‘I believe they are the best team in the Championship at the moment and it is a massive test for us. ‘We will have to be at our best because if we know if you’re not against the best sides you will get beaten. We’re going to have to improve on Reading, but I am sure we can do that. Our record at home is pretty good and I am sure they are aware of that; at home we know we can give anyone a good game.’
Baggies boss Di Matteo has identified Rob Hulse as The Rams’ danger man for the Pride Park clash: ‘I like him,’ said Di Matteo, ‘I went to see Derby versus Coventry and I was well impressed with him – he’s a very good player. They’ve got a few. Stephen Bywater is very good, Gary Teale can play and Robbie Savage, with his experience, is doing a good job there.’
Derby County Team News:
Derby’s long injury list is shortening, but there are still key absences: Kris Commons (Hamstring), Chris Porter (Hip), Giles Barnes (Achilles), Steven Davies (Hamstring), Mitch Hanson (Knee), Mark O’Brien (Recovering from Heart Operation) and Ruben Zadkovich (Groin). Shaun Barker might play but has a groin strain which has meant he hasn’t trained all week. Rob Hulse should partner Paul Dickov, with Leicester loanee Dickov likely to keep fellow Fox DJ Campbell out of the side after his excellent recent performances.
Player to watch: Rob Hulse
In a game against his old club, Rob Hulse will be keen to impress. He had a relatively productive spell with The Baggies but is scoring more goals at Derby, and with three goals in his last three games, the big striker is in good form.
West Brom Team News:
Robert Koren is out of the Pride Park match but is out of favour anyway. Left-back Joe Mattock could return after a foot injury, and winger Jerome Thomas should also return. Ishmael Miller (Knee) and James Morrison (Hell) are long-term absentees
Player to watch: Graham Dorrans
Scottish international winger Dorrans has been getting rave reviews this season after his move to West Brom in 2008 from Livingston. He has grabbed a four goals for his side this season and is a threat with his pace.
Match Facts & Stats
Last 5: Derby County
Reading (h) 2-1
Swansea City (a) 0-1
Coventry City (h) 2-1
Ipswich Town (a) 0-1
QPR (h) 2-4
Last 5: West Brom
Sheffield Wednesday (a) 4-0
Bristol City (h) 4-1
Leicester City (a) 2-1
Watford (h) 5-0
Coventry City (a) 0-0
Preston North End vs. Derby County, Tuesday 8 December 2009 19:45, The Coca-Cola Football League Championship