Birmingham City return from the first international break of the season with a home tie against Derby County to look forward to.
Having spent most of the summer break and the start of the season wrapped under financial and political difficulties, Derby are currently fighting for their life as a stricken squad look to keep adrift of the relegation zone.
The Rams are seeking their second victory of the season and visit The Midlands against next Tuesday as second-placed West Bromwich Albion play host to them.
Wayne Rooney’s men began the season falling 2-1 to newly-promoted Peterborough United. The Rams conceded late in unfortunate fashion, doing so ten minutes into injury time.
Another newly-promoted side clashed with Derby in their next game and they did come out on top. New signing Sam Baldock formerly of Brighton and Bristol City netted the only goal of the game in a fairly tight and open affair.
The East Midlands outfit struggled to break down Middlesbrough in their first game in front of their own fans in around eighteen months. It was a game of two halves with both sides settling for a goalless draw.
The yearly derby with Nottingham Forest followed and likewise, another draw. It was a game that Rooney’s men bossed but they couldn’t extend their one-goal lead. In the end, they were forced to concede eight minutes from time, still searching for their first victory on home soil this season.
So it’s five points from five games and Rooney will be pleased with that considering they are strong favourites to face the drop come the end of the season.
Wayne Rooney deploys the 4-2-3-1 formation and the full-backs are important in making this formation tick.
Nathan Byrne at right full-back stands out and interestingly, only Harvey Elliot and Emi Buendia created more chances than him last season. To put this into perspective, both are wingers and both are plying their trade for Liverpool and Aston Villa in the top-flight. On the left side is stalwart Craig Forsyth who has been at the club since 2013.
In this system, the defensive midfielders Max Bird and Graeme Shinnie rotate with the full-backs when possession is won. This means that Derby can counter-attack quickly, allowing the full-backs to overlap the wingers.
Derby like to get the ball forward quickly and they did just that to score their opening goal against Nottingham Forest. A long raking ball from Forsyth was met by Tom Lawrence who controlled and smashed the ball from the edge of the box. On Lawrence, he is quite difficult to mark and can be seen popping everywhere close to the opposition D. His long-range shots are easy to admire but the playmaker will need to be marshalled by the likes of Ryan Woods and Ivan Sunjic.
The promising thing is that Derby tend to miss quite a few chances and might end up paying for their wastefulness in front of goal as was the case against Forest.
Lawrence and Ravel Morrison will tend to drop deeper to receive the ball to dictate play and the tempo. The dynamism and width is quite pleasing on the eye when you have full-backs charging forward and putting in quality balls along with the speed of their counter-attacking.
Either Shinnie or Bird might move on the outside for one of the attacking midfielders to create space and strike at goal. One example of this is when Shinnie moves out towards the left after giving the ball to Kamil Jozwiak who was allowed to test the opposition keeper against Forest.
Derby’s players are comfortable at finding space in the opposition’s penalty area but they have massive trouble in exploiting it with chances going begging at key moments.
I think it will be key for Ryan Woods and Ivan Sunjic to negate the threat of Derby dictating the play. With either Lawrence or Morrison willing to come deep to control possession, our midfield will need to man-mark tightly and stop Derby using their full-backs to attack at will. Saying this, Maxime Colin and Kristian Pedersen will need to keep tabs on Forsyth and Byrne and will need to be prepared to run up and down throughout the match.