Derby County began their 2023/24 campaign on Saturday afternoon, losing their opening fixture 2-1 against Wigan Athletic on home soil.
Paul Warne’s men now have the opportunity to quickly redeem themselves against Blackpool at Pride Park in Carabao Cup action this evening, with several changes expected.
The Rams’ squad is still fairly threadbare, however, so it will not be a total transformation from their League One starting XI at the weekend – as we saw last season, it is likely to be just a handful of players rotated for cup action.
Two players are seemingly in line for their debuts, though, so here is the lineup we expect Warne to roll with tonight.
Poised to make his first appearance for the club, Josh Vickers is likely to start in net for the Rams. Signed from Rotherham United in the summer, and previously labelled ‘great’ by Warne, Vickers was named on the bench for Derby’s season opener. Replacing Scott Loach as Joe Wildsmith’s understudy, the 27-year-old is expected to make his debut as Warne often opts to rotate his goalkeeper in the early stages of cup competitions as seen during the last campaign.
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In the left and right-wing-back roles, we are expecting Callum Elder and Kane Wilson to make their first starts. The pair both came off the bench against Wigan, the former returning from a minor injury to make his debut. Tonight is a good opportunity for Elder to continue regaining match fitness, whereas Wilson impressed during his cameo at the weekend and could look to put his case forward for a regular spot in the starting XI.
In the back three, we think Sonny Bradley will retain his starting spot alongside Eiran Cashin with Jake Rooney set to replace Curtis Nelson. Cashin was an ever-present for the Rams last season and that is not expected to change. Bradley’s error against the Latics led directly to a goal on Saturday. Occupying the central role at the back, he could be given a chance to redeem himself following his summer arrival. Rooney frequently featured in cup competitions last season, and having recently been rewarded with a new contract, we think he could be given the nod over Nelson against the Seasiders.
Derby’s midfield almost picks itself at the moment due to limited options. We expect to see the same trio in the middle of the park that started against Wigan.
Captain Conour Hourihane should sit in the deeper role this evening, with Max Bird and Korey Smith being deployed in the box-to-box positions either side of him.
There is an argument for Liam Thompson to start ahead of either Bird or Smith following his impressive pre-season performances, but Warne is likely to keep his core in the middle against strong competition this evening.
James Collins and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing started as the two in attack last time out. We expect Collins to keep his spot, with Conor Washington to replace Mendez-Laing and make his first Derby start.
Mendez-Laing has had next to no rest this summer having featured for Guatemala in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, expected to be a key player again this season it is likely that he could take up a place on the bench against Blackpool.
Washington looked lively on his debut off the bench against the Latics and will be eager to show what he is capable of from the off tonight.
The Rams confirmed the signing of Martyn Waghorn yesterday afternoon, he is able to feature tonight and is hoping to get a few minutes under his belt in the cup according to his interview with RamsTV which suggests he is unlikely to start.
Derby’s predicted XI vs Blackpool: Vickers; Wilson, Rooney, Bradley, Cashin, Elder; Hourihane, Bird, Smith; Washington, Collins.