The iPro Stadium, August 9th 2014, 3PM
Derby County predicted starting XI: Grant, Forsyth, Keogh, Buxton, Christie, Hughes, Hendrick, Bryson, Russell, Dawkins, Martin
Rotherham United predicted starting XI: Collin, Richardson, Arnerson, Wood, Skarz, Green, Pringle, Swift, Agard, Bowery
Match odds from William Hill: Derby 4/7; Draw 3/1; Rotherham 9/2
- The Rams have won 3 of the last 6 meetings, with 2 nil-nil draws and 1 win for The Millers, coming in the most recent fixture back in 2009
With last season’s Wembley heartbreak now a faded memory, The Rams come in to the new campaign buoyed by a Summer of progress and positivity. Stars of last season Bryson, Hughes, Buxton and Hendrick have all signed new long term contracts and Steve Mclaren, along with chairman Sam Rush, has once again shown his ability to make use of the loan market. Leon Best has joined on a season long loan from Blackburn and youngster Omar Mascarell arrives from Real Madrid to cover for injured new boy George Thorne. Neither are expected to start against Rotherham, with Best being viewed as a backup to last season’s top scorer Chris Martin. Mascarell is expected to play a starting role in the future, but Hughes has impressed in the holding role throughout preseason and will need to be usurped by the Spanish youngster over the course of the campaign.
Former Coventry star Cyrus Christie is a new face at right back replacing former loanee Andre Wisdom, otherwise the lineup is a familiar one for Derby fans. Jake Buxton is an injury doubt and may be replaced by Zak Whitbread, while George Thorne is laid off long term with a damaged ACL.
Key Man: Craig Bryson
Having fended off heavy interest from Premier League newbies Burnley, Derby will be hoping that Bryson can replicate his scintillating form of last season. Contributing 16 goals and 13 assists from central midfield, Bryson romped to his second player of the season award and spurred Derby all the way to Wembley, where he came on off the bench having recently recovered from injury.
Rotherham, like Derby, come into the 2014/15 season brimming with positivity. Expect a party atmosphere at the iPro, with upwards of 2500 travelling fans expected to make the journey and celebrate back to back promotions under manager and local messiah Steve Evans.
While Rotherham fans are undoubtedly jubilant regarding their return to the second tier of English football, they are not planning for a season of making up the numbers in the Championship and present a genuine threat to Derby on Saturday.
The Millers have made 12 Summer signings in a bid to threaten the upper echelons of the Championship, including former Derby midfielder Paul Green and former Aston Villa striker Jordan Bowery. New winger Febian Brandy is set to miss out through injury though. The key to success for Rotherham will be Steve Evans maintaining the passion and blend of his squad amongst so many new faces.
Key Man: Kieran Agard
The former Arsenal youth product was integral to Rotherham’s promotion from League One, contributing 21 league goals last season. The 24 year old’s career gas finally taken off at Rotherham, and his adaptation to a higher level of football could be the most crucial aspect of The Millers’ upcoming campaign. He has the physical and technical attributes to trouble Derby’s back four on Saturday, particularly if linchpin Jake Buxton misses out.
I expect a tense, spirited game with two incredibly noisy sets of fans. Derby certainly won’t walk it, but they should have the edge against a newly formed squad lacking experience at this level.
Derby 2 – 1 Rotherham.