Championship big spenders Leicester City are in town on Saturday to try to heap more misery on The Rams, their East Midlands rivals.
Derby are on a miserable run and have notched only one win in their last eleven games, which came against basement club Preston North End, and matters haven’t improved as the week building up to Saturday’s match has been dominated by the fallout from the public criticism dished out to polish forward Tomasz Cywka by Rams boss Nigel Clough.
Indeed, the creditable draw at Portsmouth a week ago has almost been forgotten in the backlash to the manager’s post-match comments.
It was a decent point which was picked up at Fratton Park, despite the fact another late goal denied The Rams a much-needed win, so Derby might take heart from the performance and take it into the clash with The Foxes.
Leicester have gone six games unbeaten and have surged up the table under the stewardship of Sven-Goran Eriksson, now sitting four points outside the play-off places in eighth position, after a less than impressive start to the season.
Last season this fixture ended in a Derby win as The Rams being gifted the points by an own goal, after Leicester ‘keeper Chris Weale allowed a tame backpass to role under his foot and into the net.
It was the only goal of the game, one of the luckiest ever seen at Pride Park, and it brought back memories of Paul Peschisolido’s famous ‘coffee cup goal’ from the 4-2 hammering of Nottingham Forest a few seasons ago.
A win would be a much-needed tonic for the growing unrest following the lack of signings in the January transfer window and last week’s issues surrounding Cywka.
It’s a very difficult one to call, but alot may depend on the reaction of the crowd to the first slip or misplaced pass…
Rams midfielder Paul Green thinks that Derby can do the business infront of their home supporters and the television cameras.
Talking to the DET, the Republic of Ireland international said: ‘I think we can take confidence from the last game,’ said Green.
‘We’ve got a good group of lads and we’re all trying to get through this bad patch together.
‘Our fans were great at Portsmouth and we were just gutted we couldn’t get the three points for them.
‘It’s getting tough now. Leicester are flying at the moment and spending their money, so we will have to be ready for them.
‘It’s on Sky and we’ll be doing everything we can to stop them on the day.’
Leicester City boss Sven-Goran Eriksson made it clear he is not taking the form of the recent sides into account, with his side much stronger than Derby in recent weeks: ‘I don’t know if it is ever a good time to meet them,’ said the former England coach.
‘They will be aggressive and they will do everything they can to make life difficult for us, for sure.
‘They have not been on a good run but they are dangerous, very dangerous.
‘It will be a difficult game. It is a local derby, so it is a big game and important for both of us.
‘If you are on a good run or a bad run for four or five games, then everything changes in the table.
‘I think that is a picture of this league, where every game is a battle, a war.
‘You can’t take anything for granted in this league. We have to play our best football or we won’t win.’
The Rams Team News:
Central defender Dean Leacock could return to the Derby line-up after serving a two-match suspension.
If included in the team to face Leicester, he will partner Shaun Barker at the back, and Miles Addison, who has played in central defence in Leacock’s absense, will move forward into midfield.
Steven Davies will keep his place in the side after his goalscoring return to the starting line-up and Alberto Bueno may provide him with support having been on the bench for the 1-1 draw with Portsmouth.
Long-term absentees Russell Anderson and Jake Buxton remain on the sidelines with their chronic aches and pains.
Player to watch: Ben Davies
Dead ball expert Davies has been desperately close to scoring early in his Derby career, with quality strikes in defeats against Forest and Ipswich just missing the target.
He has surprised many sceptical Rams fans with his ability and if his set-pieces can hit the mark, he will become very popular with supporters. So far his free-kicks have not quite come to anything, but they will come with time as he adjusts to the Championship.
The Foxes Team News:
Leicester are free of injury worries for the Pride Park clash and they may be boosted by the possible return of defender Miguel Vitor from a hamstring injury.
Sven-Goran Eriksson looks set to stick with the side which swept aside Barnsley last week.
Player to watch: Yakubu
Derby almost signed Nigerian striker Yakubu before he transferred to Portsmouth after miraculously sorting out work permit issues.
After his productive stay with Pompey on the south coast, the burly frontman enjoyed success with subsequent spells at Middlesbrough and Everton, before the latter allowed him to move to the Walkers Stadium having fallen out of favour with Toffees’ manager David Moyes.
The West-African, imaginatively nicknamed ‘The Yak’ has already become a Foxes fans’ favourite despite only being with the East Midlands club for a matter of weeks.
He has started in impressive fashion for his new side, scoring twice in three games.
Match Facts & Stats
The Ram’s last five:
Portsmouth (a) 1-1
Ipswich Town (h) 1-2
Nottingham Forest (h) 0-1
Watford (a) 0-3
Crawley Town (a) 1-2
The Foxes’ last five:
Barnsley (h) 4-1
Sheffield United (a) 1-0
Millwall (h) 4-2
Man City (a) 2-4
Preston North End (a) 1-1
Scunthorpe United vs. Derby County, Sat 19th February, 15:00pm, The Championship