Tonight, in front of the Sky Sports cameras, Derby face Brighton as they look for an end to their woeful record away from home.
For Brighton, managed by Chris Hughton, the match is yet another one of huge magnitude in their promotion push. The Seagulls currently sit second in the league, three points from top, six clear of third but in recent games, prior to beating Rotherham on Tuesday, have stuttered slightly, losing to Newcastle and Nottingham Forest. Though this is the case they thus far have the joint best home record, with thirteen wins and 37 goals – in addition to this they also boast the best home defensive record in the EFL conceding just eleven times at the Amex all season.
Derby couldn’t have faced Brighton at a worse time, the Rams have won just one of their last seven away from home, scoring in just two of those games. Also, Steve McClaren’s side have won just one of their last eight league games though that came on Saturday against Barnsley ending a six match winless run. On Tuesday they led for 45 minutes against Preston before conceding in the final minute of added time to share the points. Derby come into the game 22 points behind their opponents in the table.
Shane Duffy is sidelined for six weeks (broken metatarsal). Fellow defenders Gaetan Bong and Sebastian Pocognoli are still out. Striker Chuba Akpom may ne involved after recovering from a knee injury.
New signing Vegard Forren may feature after signing because of Duffy’s injury, Uwe Huenemeier is also available to slot in to partner Lewis Dunk.
Derby County are waiting on the fitness of defender Richard Keogh (calf) and midfielder Bradley Johnson (shin).
Tricky French winger Anthony Knockaert’s performance is likely to be key for the hosts. This season, in 35 appearances the 25 year old has scored 12 and assisted seven goals making him one of the Championship’s most influential players. In his last 15 matches he has been involved in thirteen goals, scoring six and assisting seven, meaning he is very much in form and is a player that Derby full back Marcus Olsson must keep a close eye on. Central midfielder Dale Stephens will also be vital for Hughton’s side, of the 29 matches in which Stephens has featured this campaign, Brighton have lost just three, drawing five and winning 21.
Likely Brighton lineup (4-4-2): Stockdale, Bruno, Hünemeier, Dunk, Rosenior; Knockaert, Kayal, Stephens, Skalak; Baldock, Murray.
Likely Derby lineup (4-2-3-1): Carson, Christie, Keogh, Pearce, Olsson; Butterfield, Hughes; Ince, Nugent, Vydra, Bent.
The sides last met on the opening day and produced a 0-0 draw, they now have the second and third best defensive records in the Championship. In recent years the fixture has produced some fantastic wins for the Rams including two in the 2013/14 play offs which ended 2-1 and 4-1, sending them to Wembley. Brighton are the favourites but as Steve McClaren has said this week, Derby would love to stifle Brighton’s promotion challenge.
Prediction: Brighton 3-1 Derby (Hemed, Dunk, Knockaert & Ince)