It’s almost time, the biggest game of the Championship season, Derby against Forest.
The Rams host their East Midlands rivals on Sunday. The game needs no introduction and both sets of supporters know only victory will suffice.
When it was announced on fixture release day that the first A52 Derby of the season was taking place at Pride Park in the lead up to the busy Christmas period; the game had an intriguing feel to it before a ball was even kicked.
In recent years, the first game between the teams has usually taken place at the City Ground in an early season encounter where either team’s campaign had barely taken shape.
However, if you think that the shake up in the fixture format is the only source for a curious outlook in the pre-match build up then you are sadly mistaken.
With more than a third of the season already gone, both side’s seasons are starting to come together after a run of recent good form.
Traditionally one side is seen as the favourites, and despite the old cliché of form counting for nothing in Derby matches, you would much prefer to be a side going into the game in form.
The Rams have won their past five matches in a row and since McClaren’s return, are the best form team in the division. Whilst Forest have won three on the bounce, including their first two away wins of the season.
So you could argue that there is no side with the upper hand in the current form table.
If you look further than the formbook and go deeper into the statistics, it makes for fascinating reading.
Derby County vs Nottingham Forest Stats:
• The Rams have the second best defensive record in the Championship, conceding only 13 goals so far this season.
• Forest have shipped in 33 goals, only bottom side Rotherham United have conceded more goals.
• Derby have 10 clean sheets so far, whilst Forest have only one.
• Derby are the joint second lowest scorers in the division, only managing to score 17 goals in 19 games.
• Forest have scored 34 goals, making them the Championship’s joint second highest scorers. Only Newcastle have score more.
• Derby hold the best home defensive the league, conceding only five goals at Pride Park.
• Out of Forest’s 19 games, both teams have managed to score in 15 of them. Both teams have managed to score in only four of Derby’s games.
You couldn’t have matched together two more contrasting sides.
Derby have gained a reputation for being one of the division’s most reliable defensive sides whilst Forest pose a big threat in front of a goal.
Both approaches have their positives and negatives, however we know all too well that the ‘gung-ho’ style, or ‘you score one, we’ll score two’ attitude, can be a destructive one.
No matter what your footballing philosophy is, it cannot be argued that if you don’t concede then you won’t lose the match.
If Derby fail to concede on Sunday then I can only see one winner in this game.
The Rams have enough quality final third to produce a goal and I firmly believe that we will be seeing another photo of the Rams players gathered round the Brian Clough Trophy in the dressing room.
Derby- Tom Ince
Since being reunited with McClaren, Ince’s form has improved drastically and coincided with the team’s surge up the table.
After struggling under Pearson’s regime, Ince has been encouraged to play a more direct, attacking role by McClaren and all associated with Derby have benefitted from this.
He can be a frustrating player to watch when he’s not fully immersed into the game but he has that ability to produce that magic which can win games.
Forest boss Phillipe Montanier, plays three at the back and wing backs. This will suit Ince’s game as the gap between the wingbacks and the back three will provide him time and space to cause trouble all afternoon.
Forest- Henri Lansbury
The November Championship player of the month has been in scintillating form.
Lansbury’s performances have led to an upturn in Forest’s fortunes and they have gone from looking like relegation candidates to possible play-off contenders.
The ex-Arsenal man is a key player for the Reds and when he plays well, the team tends to follow suit.
Derby will need to be aware of the danger he provides on the ball but also keep an eye out for his theatrics.
He was ear marked for his tendency to go down and was criticised heavily for some of his actions in his side’s victory over Newcastle.