Derby travel to Villa Park to face Aston Villa as both sides look for an end to their poor form and to begin a rise up the Championship table.
It is Steve Bruce’s Villa who are in the worse form as they haven’t won in 2017 – they last won on boxing day against Burton. This run has seen them tumble to 17th, just six points above the bottom three. After spending over £80 million this season, Villa were expected to be towards the top of the league, they are currently 32 points off the promotion places and because of this, manager Steve Bruce has come under masses of scrutiny. Though many Villa fans believe he is the man for the job, he needs to win this game to avoid a potential change of heart from the club’s owner Dr Tony Xia.
Derby haven’t won in five in all competitions. In that time they’ve conceded eleven, seeing them drop from the cusp of the play off places to 11th, 10 points off sixth placed Sheffield Wednesday and in need of a win to keep the dreams of a top six finish alive.
Aston Villa will be without January signing Scott Hogan who got an injury in his sides 2-0 defeat at Newcastle. Gabby Agbonlahor and Rushian Hepburn-Murphy are also unavailable through injury.
Full back James Bree may return from a knee injury along with winger Andre Green who returned to training this week. Top scorer Jonathan Kodjia is available after going off with a rib injury against Newcastle.
The Rams will be without Nick Blackman who still has a knee problem while Craig Bryson and Johnny Russell are again available for selection after recovering from hip and hamstring injuries respectively.
One time Derby target Jonathan Kodjia will be crucial for Aston Villa if they are to win for the first time this year. Summer signing Kodjia, who’s fee could rise to £15 million, is Aston Villa’s top scorer this season. He’s netted 11 times in 28 appearances, accounting for more than a third of his teams league goals this term. Another ex Derby target that will play in claret and blue on Saturday is midfielder Henri Lansbury who the Rams opened the bidding for in January, but eventually due to Nottingham Forest’s refusal to sell to their biggest rival, he moved south to Birmingham.
With their opponents massively out of form, this is a great chance for Derby to win at Villa Park for the first time since 1988. A win could also help forge one final push for the top six after their hopes were massively damaged by getting just two points from nine in three winnable home games.
Likely Aston Villa lineup (4-1-2-1-2): Johnstone, Hutton, Chester, Elphick, Taylor; Jedinak, Bjarnason, Lansbury, Hourihane; Adomah, Kodjia.
Likely Derby lineup (4-3-3): Carson, Christie, Keogh, Pearce, Lowe; de Sart, Butterfield, Hughes; Ince, Anya, Bent.
The home side without doubt have the better individuals but may again struggle due to their lack of confidence and spirit within their ‘Championship all stars’ team. Though Derby aren’t great on their travels and have been poor recently, this game is a great opportunity to start a winning run, I hope the players take it.