Next up is the big one. Yes, it’s Nottingham Forest away in just over a week’s time. Stuart Pearce’s side are riding high at the top of the table and will no doubt be confident of achieving revenge from March’s extraordinary 5-0 Rams win (I just had to mention that win!).
The team selection has attracted a lot of talk so far this season. The much-debated ‘Thorne role’ has provided fans with a constant source of cogitation, as well as who should be the wingers and even if Richard Keogh and Jake Buxton are up to scratch in the heart of the defence. Here’s my assessment of who should play against Forest.
So far this season Derby have conceded four goals in seven outings. Captain Keogh has played in all of those games and I’d expect him to continue. It is a question of who should partner him.
Regular Jake Buxton has been struggling with a slight hip problem in recent weeks. It isn’t really known how much that has impacted his performances but it probably hasn’t done him any good. Another player might have sat out a game or two extra (he has missed the two Cup games), it is typical of Bucko to want to carry on.
Vying to take his place is Ryan Shotton, a man that can clearly be deployed in a few different positions, and Zak Whitbread. If Buxton isn’t fully fit, I would go for Whitbread and if he is fully fit, I would still consider it. The defence has a big role to play in keeping out Britt Assombalonga, a huge presence with four goals so far this season.
It is difficult to understand where exactly new loan signing Shotton will fit in yet. However, clearly, he is tall, strong player that will be useful in the coming months.
In the holding midfield role, it is a toss-up between Omar Mascarell, John Eustace and perhaps even Ryan Shotton for that position or another within the midfield. Eustace’s experience means he gets the nod from me.
A blow in midfield has been the injury to Jeff Hendrick. Craig Bryson hasn’t started the season in electric form yet he and Will Hughes would be my two.
The starting eleven will certainly include Jamie Ward. He is perfect for these kind of matches and he has scored three already this season.
Moving on, I would hand Jordan Ibe his debut. It is a big, big debut – that’s why I would have given him some game time in the last match from the bench. The youngster will be very eager to impress and would inject plenty of pace, giving Reds full-backs Eric Lichaj and Jack Hunt something to think about.
It is clearly another tough team selection for Steve McClaren and I will read it with great interest before kick-off next week. Here is my verdict (below) and I welcome yours in the comments section. I’m just glad it’s not me making such big calls!
Grant; Christie, Keogh, Whitbread, Forsyth; Eustace; Hughes, Bryson; Ward, Martin, Ibe.
Whatever happens next week is unlikely to be followed by the events that followed last year’s meeting at the City Ground!