Play-off places on the line in East Midlands Derby


Derby County versus Nottingham Forest rarely needs extra hype, but as seventh host fourth with just six matches to go in the Championship, this East Midlands Derby could be even more dramatic than most.

Phillip Cocu’s side have picked up a maximum nine points since returning from the coronavirus lockdown, to move within a place and a point of the play-offs.

The visitors have also been in good form, with a draw followed by two wins increasing their cushion inside the top six to seven points.

Fourth place Forest could go third with a win, at least temporarily ahead of Brentford facing Wigan, but seem to have left it too late to seriously challenge the automatic promotion places.

Derby, meanwhile, could jump up into sixth if they beat their fierce-rivals in Saturday’s early kick-off, which would pile the pressure on Cardiff who currently occupy the final play-off spot.

Both sides won 1-0 thanks to brilliant free-kicks last time out; Wayne Rooney netted for Derby at Preston, whilst Tiago Silva finished for Forest at home to Bristol City.

The Reds are unbeaten in the last five meetings without conceding, winning the last three – that includes 3-0 and 1-0 triumphs at the City Ground earlier this season, in the League Cup and Championship respectively.


In the last league meeting, top-scorer Lewis Grabban pounced on a sloppy pass across the back four to seal the three points early in the second-half (credit: Getty Images)

Saturday’s hosts, however, haven’t lost an East Midlands Derby at Pride Park since 2015 and Forest have won on only two of their last 17 trips down the A52.

Derby have the Championship’s second-best home record (11-7-2), whilst Sabri Lamouchi’s do have this season’s third best away record (8-9-3), so as ever in this fixture, anything could happen.

The Rams will be without suspended winger Tom Lawrence, who was sent off after the final whistle in their last match against Reading for a stupid headbutt to Matt Miazga.

They will also be missing ex-Liverpool defender Andre Wisdom, who is recovering after he was stabbed and robbed on a return to Merseyside.

Striker Jack Marriott has also been ruled out for the rest of the season following groin surgery, whilst £10 million Poland international Krystian Bielik won’t be back from his anterior cruciate ligament injury until the Autumn.

Forest, on the other hand, have no fitness concerns other than Tendayi Darikwa, who has missed the entire season with a similar ACL problem.

Influential midfielder Samba Sow finally returned to action from the bench in midweek and will be pushing for a start, in an often fierce fixture where the visitors could use his commanding presence at the heart of the team.

Speaking about his rivals’ strengths, Rams boss Phillip Cocu said: “Many teams have the same feeling I think, when they face Forest. That’s the greatest strength of Forest.

“They give you the feeling that you’re playing well against them, that you’re in the game and at any moment they can score a goal.

“It’s really extremely hard to beat them when they go up 1-0 – very good organisation, very good defence and still dangerous on the counter-attack.”

Reds manager Sabri Lamouchi, meanwhile, wants an improved performance from the visitors against a confident Derby side.

He said: “We know where we will play on Saturday and we will face a team with confidence – they have got three wins in a row.

“It is important for us to go there and try to suffer less than we did against Bristol City and try to disturb them. We will try to do that.

“We will suffer, but to play against us, the opposition suffer more than us. We have to keep going, stay focused and take it game by game.”


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