It has the potential to make all other dates in December seem insignificant – the most anticipated fixture of the year is on the horizon and despite our unexpected loss at the weekend, we should be confident.
Nottingham Forest will of course make the short trip down the A52 to face Derby County on a Monday evening – which I happen to think is a disgrace from Sky Sports – it has all the ingredients to be a classic.
Both sides, for the first time in a long time, are competing at the right end of the Championship table, which whilst I would like to see the likes of Richard Keogh quivering above the relegation zone, helps make this fixture even more appetising.
As I said in my last post, a win against Preston at the weekend would have put us in the best possible position to go to Frank Lampard’s side, to play at Frank Lampard’s stadium and steal three points from Frank Lampard’s promotion bid.
Saturday did not quite go according to the script however, with Preston mastering the snatch and grab result which many teams have tried and failed to do at the City Ground, so far this season.
After stumbling in from a night out in Melbourne at 2:30am, I managed to capture the last 20 minutes of the first half and the second half.
Whilst a 1-0 loss at home is hard to excuse, it’s also difficult to criticise the Reds performance especially in the first half – taking into account a Frankenstein defence put together based on suspensions and injuries.
Perhaps, it is the trip back to reality Forest needed before facing Derby, after such an impressive run of games – Karanka will surely be hoping to use the frustration of the Preston result, to put things right come Monday night.
So here is how I believe we will line up, for our Derby day fixture…
Pantilimon, Darikwa, Hefele, Robinson, Osborn, Yacob, Colback, Cash, Carvalho, Lolley, Grabban.
Costel Pantilimon and Ben Osborn, were again made the Christmas pantomime villains by sections of the Forest faithful after their performances against North End.
The video of their rather comical miscommunication, unfortunately did nothing to help their case online, however a lot of the criticism has been largely unjustified and uninformed.
Their consolidation in the starting line up, should set the tone for an unchanged Forest side, which has been performing well of late going forward.
Lolley, Carvalho, Cash and Grabban, will be licking their lips at the prospect of facing what has been at times a very shaky Rams defence.
Yacob and Colback, should help protect the back four and their combat with Derby’s midfield will be vital in determining the flow of the game, thus the final result.
Forest’s defence is somewhat makeshift, with a number of key absences at centre back, Danny Fox and Michael Dawson seem unlikely to feature, however a return to the starting line up for either will certainly boost Forest fans hopes of clinching a positive result.
Last season’s 2-0 loss away at the iPro seems like a nasty, but distant memory, Forest have come a long way forward in a short space of time to be back on a level playing field with Derby.
Each week, one seems to overtake the other, constantly tussling for positions in and around the play offs – now in 4th, the Rams have a three point advantage on Forest, after beating 10 man Wigan Athletic on Saturday.
Lampard’s men have been applauded for their free flowing, attack minded play, however have been marred by inconsistent, defensive performances.
Line up against Wigan:
GK – Scott Carson, RB – Jayden Bogle, CB – Richard Keogh, CB – Fikayo Tomori, LB – Scott Malone, CM – Craig Bryson, CM – Tom Huddlestone, CM – Mason Mount, RW – Tom Lawrence, LW – Harry Wilson, CF – Jack Marriott.
Much the same as Lampard as a player, this Derby team plays emphasis to their talent further forward, which is more than likely how they will oppose Forest.
Expect large spells of possession and pressure from the hosts, who will be keen to grab an early goal and put early pressure on Karanka’s men.
Much similar to Forest, in that the attacking midfield three of Mount, Lawrence and Wilson, will try and stretch the opposition backline, whilst also possessing the quality to make chances of their own.
Wilson in particular, on loan from Liverpool, will be the one Forest will have to watch, in order to keep the Rams from scoring.
As said before however, Derby are slow defensively and can be caught on the counter attack if Forest are quick enough in utilising their attacking players and full backs.
It has the potential to be a cracker and who knows, it could be a taster of a play off encounter in a few months time.
Picture Credit: Nottingham Forest