The Rams are back on home soil to face Burnley after the creditable goalless draw at league leaders QPR.
It was a good performance which was dismissed by the media as ‘defensive Derby’. When a team lower in the table faces a promotion-chaser, it is all too easy to see the zero next to the score and jump to the conclusion that the team ‘parked the bus’ and had no intention of playing ‘football’.
Despite the dismissive media coverage of Derby’s well-deserved point (where they notched more efforts on goal that their Premier League-bound opponents) Nigel Clough and Derby fans realised the quality of the performance which has, in all likelihood, ensured their place in the division for next season.
But that’s enough of QPR. The latest opponents at Pride Park, Burnley, have been in unpredictable form since Eddie Howe took over from Brian Laws as manager.
Glance at the match facts and stats at the bottom of the preview for an idea…
Two strong home wins in their last two games have given them renewed hopes of a play-off finish, a race that is set to go to the wire, so they will certainly be up for the match and keen to secure the points which will keep them hot on the heels of those in the play-off places.
Rams coach Johnny Metgod predicts a fascinating match up against a side two points off a play-off spot: ‘The fact Burnley have a lot to play for is a big incentive for us,’ he told Rams Player.
‘We know they will come at us because this game is huge for them, as it is for us.
‘They need to win to keep the pressure on the chasing pack, so it will be a very interesting match because I think we can give them a real game.
‘At the moment, I don’t dread anybody coming to Pride Park.
‘We can give anyone a game, as we’ve seen against Swansea and Leeds.’
Burnley defender Michael Duff thinks that the play-off places are far from decided and will fight till the last to secure a berth for his side: “We have Saturday/Monday now, which will be tough, and I think there will be a few freak results because of the games coming so close, so we have to look no further ahead than Derby.
‘We watched them on Monday and they were hard to beat.’
The Rams Team News:
Nigel Clough may stick with the line-up that served him so well at QPR, although he may recall midfielder Ben Davies for the Pride Park clash after he was dropped to the bench following his maiden Rams goal in the 2-1 win over Leeds.
Tomasz Cywka, Paul Green, Jake Buxton and Saul Deeney all remain on the sidelines.
Stephen Pearson is set for his 100th (yes, that’s one hundredth) Rams start.
Player to watch: Jamie Ward
Forward Ward should surely be one of the first permanent signings in the transfer window. He has been an absolute livewire since signing and is the biggest threat in the Derby side with his direct and speedy approach.
The Birmingham-born striker has stated that he is keen to stay in the East Midlands so if he wants to stay and the management want him, it makes sense to snap him up from soon-to-be-relegated Sheffield United.
The Clarets Team News:
Burnley’s Marvin Bartley will miss out through suspension. Andre Bikey, Dean Marney and Chris Eagles all face fitness tests after sustaining knocks in the win over Middlesbrough.
Player to watch: Graham Alexander
Midfielder Alexander appeared in his 1,000th match in English football against Swansea City, an extraordinary achievement for a 39 year old in a sport which is increasingly focused on youth and speed.
This is testament to his astonishing fitness and the skill he undoubtedly possesses. He can take a brilliant penalty too.
Match Facts & Stats
The Rams’ last five:
Queens Park Rangers (a) 0-0
Leeds United (h) 2-1
Coventry City (h) 2-2
Cardiff City (a) 1-4
Crystal Palace (a) 2-2
The Clarets’ last five:
Middlesbrough (h) 3-1
Swansea City (h) 2-1
Nottingham Forest (a) 0-2
Leicester City (a) 0-4
Ipswich Town (h) 1-2
Norwich City vs. Derby County, Mon 25 Apr, 15:00, The Championship