Derby County take on Preston North End on Saturday in what should be one of the most intriguing Championship encounters as both teams will be confident of victory.
The Rams have won four straight games at Pride Park. On the road, Phillip Cocu’s men have struggled but with home comforts they are a formidable team of late.
Preston, meanwhile, are second in the Championship table. The Lillywhites have lost just one of their last 13 league games as they head to the East Midlands.
Derby are 12 games unbeaten against Preston. Moreover, the Rams haven’t lost at home to the Lancashire side for over a decade. Recent history is on their side.
Here is how we believe Derby will line-up.
Scott Malone and Matthew Clarke are ruled out with injury. Max Lowe will start at left-back, but Phillip Cocu will have a selection headache filling the other centre-back position.
Summer signing Krystian Bielik can play there. However, the Poland international is far better in midfield and the Rams lose so much when he isn’t playing there.
George Evans showed in pre-season how he can play at centre-back. While he isn’t a natural there, Cocu may turn to the former Reading man to solve the problem. Andre Wisdom and Craig Forsyth are other options, but Evans represents the most likely short-term fix.
Duane Holmes has been off the boil for a while. Derby could do with freshening up the midfield, and Everton loanee Kieran Dowell could be given another chance.
Dowell has just one assist from six starts since joining from Everton last summer. However, the Toffees man does have ability, and changing from 4-3-3 could reignite his form.
Derby have struggled for rhythm when playing one upfront. Cocu switched to a diamond against Middlesbrough, and the Rams started to create far more chances.
Chris Martin and Jack Marriott have the makings of a decent partnership with Tom Lawrence behind. Martyn Waghorn, meanwhile, is a sound option off the bench.
Also see: Reported Derby target could join Championship rivals in January after failed summer move
Also see: Cocu says Derby academy talent is showing unbelievable levels after tough start