The City Ground, Sunday 14th September 2014, 1:15pm kick off
- Forest have remained at the summit of the Championship during the international break thanks to a blinding start to the campaign, with 4 wins in 5 games. Meanwhile, Derby have recovered from their Play Off failure last term fairly well, sitting 7th in the League whilst keeping some key names over the Summer.
- The previous City Ground meeting between the two ended 1-0 to the Reds as a first half Jack Hobbs header secured the points, and the bragging rights. However, it was a very different story at Pride Park where Derby inflicted a 5-0 humiliation on Forest, who were completely abject and devoid of any fight on the day.
- In contrast to the meeting in March, Forest have a fully fit squad available to take on their rivals. Derby, on the other hand, are without key men Jamie Ward, Jeff Hendrick and George Thorne for the clash on Sunday.
Nottingham Forest have enjoyed the best start to the season possible, top of the Championship, injury free and full of goals and entertainment; things couldn’t be better on Trentside. And now they welcome their biggest rivals to the City Ground hoping to dispel the horrors of March where they suffered a 5-0 defeat to the Rams. However, it’s doubtful that Stuart Pearce will let that defeat play on the minds of the Forest squad. The only starter from the 5-0 expected to start Sunday is Karl Darlow, which is an example of Forest’s woes on that day, after which Billy Davies was sacked.
Last time out Forest saw off the brave challenge of Sheffield Wednesday, stealing a 1-0 victory from Hillsborough after heavy pressure was applied during the last 10 minutes. Away from home Forest haven’t performed as well as they could have so far, but they’ve managed to take 6 points from both Wednesday and Bournemouth, always the sign of a good team. Despite their under-par away performances, the Reds have treated their fans in their first couple of home games; scoring 6 and conceding 0. However, Derby will be a very different prospect to Reading and Blackpool, offering much more threat going forward.
This Forest squad have had another two weeks to recover from any injuries they sustained and is now fully fit, leaving Stuart Pearce with another selection headache. It is likely that Pearce will opt for a 4-5-1 formation to contend with Derby’s strength in midfield with the likes of Will Hughes and Craig Bryson. This would open the door to the likes of David Vaughan, who hasn’t featured yet this season, and Robert Tesche in the centre of midfield, with Chris Cohen possibly moving back to left back. Pearce has a wealth of options at his disposal and will have to use them wisely to overcome the Rams on Sunday.
Finally Derby have begun to live up to their potential as a top Championship side, years of mid-table mediocrity are a distant memory now for the Rams. Since the sacking of Clough and the appointment of former Forest manager Steve McClaren Derby haven’t looked back, taking the Championship by storm last campaign, missing out on promotion in the last minute of the play-off final with QPR snatching the prize. However, they seem to have already shaken off the disappointment from their Wembley heartbreak, showing signs of the same flair and endeavour which earned them so many plaudits last season.
Derby were poor last time out against Ipswich, drawing 1-1 and in many people’s opinion they were lucky to gain the point. They did, though, dismantle Fulham 5-1 at the iPro a few weeks ago, showing their considerable threat at this level. With just one defeat so far this campaign, the Rams look like serious contenders for promotion again and will undoubtedly be in and around the top 6. Despite this, away from home Derby have struggled, with a drab 0-0 draw at Hillsborough and a 3-2 defeat against Charlton at The Valley, which doesn’t bode well for Sunday.
The roles seem to have reversed from last season’s fixture at Derby, as the Rams are suffering some key name injuries at the moment. George Thorne wasn’t at the club for a week before he ruptured his Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) leaving him out for the majority of the season. Meanwhile, in-form Jamie Ward and Jeff Hendrick are also out for Sunday’s clash leaving Derby’s squad at its bare bones. But they still have a variety of options with Craig Bryson, Will Hughes and top scorer Chris Martin all ready to do battle at the City Ground.
A fixture laden in history, rivalry and interesting sub-plots, the East-Midlands derby never fails to provide its audience with entertainment and drama; this Sunday should be no different. The occasion also marks the 10th anniversary of Derby and Forest club legend Brian Clough’s passing, an applause in the 10th minute of the game will occur in his memory.
Can Forest lay to rest last season’s humiliation and give their fans the bragging rights? Or will Derby ruin the Reds’ fantastic start to the campaign and send Rams hope happy? What a game it is in store, both Clubs have wonderful squads and, in my opinion, are ready to return to the Premier League. This should give us an indication of where both sides are and what they can achieve this year. I think Forest will thrive in the home atmosphere and gain a 2-0 victory.