The Rams are on a high after wins over promotion contenders Sheffield United and West Bromwich Albion in the last week. Has Tony Pulis and his Middlesbrough team learned of a way to stop Derby County from making it three out of three this week or will Derby County go top of the Championship (for a brief while) after the early kick-off at the Riverside Stadium?
Craig Bryson looks set to sit out another match after suffering a calf injury during the win over Sheffield United last weekend. He did not play against WBA with the same injury. Manager Frank Lampard said “Craig is not far away from fitness”, but Derby are expecting a typical physical match against Middlesbrough and will not risk their midfield dynamo.
George Evans is also nearing fitness but again will sit this one out after feeling a problem in training with his hip. Evans has not played for the Rams since August but should hopefully be in contention for a place in the squad soon.
It will be interesting to see if Lampard goes again with in-form Jack Marriott up front or bring back David Nugent for the physical battle ahead. Martyn Waghorn partnered Marriott at The Hawthorns and could be the attacking option to give way for Nugent.
Meanwhile, Middlesbrough are waiting on a fitness report on former Rams player Ryan Shotton, the defender has a knee injury and was missed after Rotherham managed a draw with Boro in midweek. Boro manager Tony Pulis said, “his absence was noticed”.
Your referee for the lunchtime game is Peter Barnes, A bad omen for the Rams in the two games he has taken charge of this season. His first was the 1-4 loss at Pride Park to Leeds United in August. The second was the 1-0 loss at Rotherham, a game that also saw Barnes send off Tom Lawrence. The red card earning the Welsh International a three-game ban. To add insult to injury the referee also sent Frank Lampard to the stands for exiting his technical area and confronting his assistant(linesman) after several dubious decisions.
Let us hope the omens are kind to the Rams this time with Mr Barnes in charge.