On Saturday, Derby, winless in six league games, face Barnsley who are also in the midst of a poor run of form.
Paul Heckingbottom’s Barnsley come into the game having won just one of their last six, with their most recent fixture resulting in a 1-1 draw against 3rd placed Huddersfield. The Tykes, this season, like Huddersfield, have been one of the many surprise packages in the Championship as after promotion via the play offs last term, they sit 10th on 50 points, 17 clear of relegation.
After a 1-0 defeat to Blackburn on Tuesday night, Derby were left winless in seven in all competitions. In what has been their worst run since his appointment, Steve McClaren’s side have dropped from as high as fifth to eleventh, now ten points off the play offs and two behind tomorrow’s opponents.
The home side will be without captain Richard Keogh (calf) who failed to start in the league for the first time in over two years on Tuesday.
Central defender Jason Shackell will also miss out again with a back injury. Striker Nick Blackman is again unlikely to feature with a knee problem.
Joint top scorer Darren Bent is available having trained this week, after picking up a knock against Aston Villa and then missing out at Blackburn.
Barnsley head coach Paul Heckingbottom is expected to choose from an unchanged squad. He has no major new injury or suspension worries following last week’s home draw against Huddersfield.
Striker Tom Bradshaw, winger Adam Hammill and midfielder George Moncur are all in contention to return to the starting line-up.
Defender Aidy White, winger Saidy Janko and midfielder Sessi D’Almeida remain sidelined, loanee Matty James is carrying a slight knock but should be available.
After an unexpectedly impressive start to the season, in January, a number of Barnsley’s players were bought by bigger clubs – top scorer Sam Winnall and captain Conor Hourihane left the Tykes for Sheffield Wednesday and Aston Villa respectively. Though key players were lost, Barnsley also made some good signings of their own, bringing in midfielders Matty James (loan) and Alex Mowatt from Leicester and Leeds. The pair have become a key part of the Tykes’ squad and along with attacking duo Tom Bradshaw and Adam Armstrong, who have between them scored 13 times this season, will be crucial for Heckingbottom’s side.
With his side struggling to score goals in recent games, Derby boss Steve McClaren has this week stated that he will now look to try different formations as opposed to personnel. He has, on a number of occasions, switched from the 4-3-3 to a 4-2-3-1 in games so it seems likely that this (4-2-3-1) would be his ‘plan B’ so to speak. Some Rams fans have also mentioned the possibility of a return to the 4-4-2 which failed to produce under Nigel Pearson at the start of the season.
Likely Derby lineup (4-2-3-1): Carson, Christie, Baird, Pearce, Lowe; De Sart, Johnson; Ince, Vydra, Russell; Nugent.
Likely Barnsley lineup (4-3-3): Davies, Yiadom, Roberts, MacDonald, Jones; Mowatt, Scowen, James; Kent, Watkins, Armstrong.
Last time the sides met, Derby, then under Nigel Pearson were beaten 2-0 by a dominant Barnsley at Oakwell. Like then, the Rams are still struggling to score goals and against a fully firing Barnsley may find it tough to out-fire the opposition. If we were to win, we would move above the Tykes and would hopefully be able to kick start a strong conclusion to a very up and down season.
Prediction: Derby 2-1 Barnsley (Nugent, Ince & Roberts) – Our poor run of form will come to an end. I hope.