Match odds: Home win: 3/4 Draw: 14/5 Away win: 15/4
Home form: DWWWWWWWWD
Away form: LWWDWLDWWD
The Rams dropped out of the top two following a hard earned draw against fellow promotion chasers Bournemouth midweek. The top three now are only separated by one point and in truth the search for promotion simply couldn’t be any tighter than it is. However, this weekend Derby will host Reading in what they may consider a distraction from their pursuit of an automatic promotion spot in the FA Cup last 16 this weekend. Steve McClaren will be without a number of players, such as Tom Ince who has been in brilliant form since his move to Derby, scoring three in two games. The Rams boss told the official club website that he expects to ring the changes this weekend, with a number of key talents likely to be rested with one eye most certainly remaining on the pursuit of promotion. It is safe to say that the home side have not been hugely troubled in getting this far in the competition overcoming Southport and Chesterfield at home so far in the cup. Reading will be the biggest challenge so far this weekend.
The Royals travel to the iPro this weekend with this game arguably being the most important so far in the visitors season. With the Royals being marooned in mid table, without a real chance of either fighting for promotion and no real risk of relegation, this may be the last chance to make something of their season. The visitors have enjoyed a good run of form away from home, with only one defeat in their last six games away from the Madejski. Following two wins on the bounce, Steve Clarke’s men were brought back to earth with a troubling bang after they lost 2-0 at home to Leeds United in the week. New signing Yakubu could be set for a start, with Chris Gunter and Jem Karacan the only real injury concerns. It’s unlikely that Clarke will rest any of his key stars given the importance of this tie for the Blues.
On paper, there will only be one winner. Derby County have been going great guns in the league and cup, and with their current momentum and form it’ll be hugely difficult for the Royals to get a victory, however they will be optimistic about one aspect. Derby will obviously have one eye on the league and they will not want to risk any injuries to some of their key stars. As mentioned above, the Royals have little to play for in the league this season so this could well be make or break for the visitors. I’m going to sit well and truly on the fence and say this game will end in a draw.