After a disappointing draw on Saturday, Derby face Cardiff City at Pride Park in the second of three consecutive home games.
At the weekend, after a terrible first half display, Derby managed to come from three down to grab a point against strugglers Bristol City. Tonight’s visitors Cardiff beat an in form Leeds side at Elland Road thanks to two second half goals.
Last time the sides met, Derby’s manager Nigel Pearson had been suspended just hours before kick off and Cardiff, then under Paul Trollope sat, alongside the Rams, in the bottom three. Derby, who were being managed by assistant manager Chris Powell came out 2-0 victors in what was only their second league win of the season. Since then, both sides have appointed new managers and have flown up the table. Midway through October Derby brought back ex boss Steve McClaren who has since got 37 points in 19 games. A few days later, after sacking their manager, Cardiff appointed Neil Warnock who has, in 20 games seen his side earn 31 points. The Bluebirds now sit 13th, 10 points above the relegation zone, Derby are 8th, five points from the play offs.
One Cardiff player Derby must keep an eye on is 32 year old midfielder Peter Whittingham. He has scored six goals and assisted seven in 28 appearances this season. Whittingham has spent ten years with the Bluebirds, in which he has played 448 times, scoring 95 goals. Before this, he spent a short period on loan at Derby from Aston Villa in 2005, making 11 appearances for the Rams. Central defender and captain Sean Morrison will also be vital for the visitors, alongside his defensive abilities, Morrison is also dangerous from set pieces and has scored 13 times in the last three seasons. He gave his side the lead on Saturday when he headed a free kick past Leeds keeper Rob Green.
After scoring twice against Bristol City, Derby striker Darren Bent reached double figures for the season, he has also now scored 175 career league goals in 353 starts. He and Rams winger Tom Ince have, in all competitions, scored 22 of Derby’s 40 goals this season. They will be hoping Ince scores against Cardiff as the Rams are unbeaten in the 27 matches (17 wins, 10 draws) in which he has scored since signing, originally on loan in January 2015.
If Derby are to beat Cardiff they will have to end a 31 year period in which they have never done a league double over the Bluebirds. The last time they did was in the 1985-86 season.
Steve McClaren speaking yesterday about the visit of Cardiff:
Tom Ince speaking before he and his teammates face Cardiff:
The Rams may have a few injury problems with Will Hughes, Craig Bryson and Bradley Johnson all doubts. Jacob Butterfield may start after an impressive display after coming on against Bristol City – Ikechi Anya could do the same. Matej Vydra, Nick Blackman, Max Lowe and Cyrus Christie will all hope to be reinstated in the match day squad after being left out on Saturday.
The game should be close and is likely to be full of lots of individual battles. It should come down to whether we see the Derby of the first or the second half against Bristol City. If the Rams want to make the play offs, this game is a must win.