How the mighty have fallen. Nottingham Forest in 20th host 22nd-placed Derby at the City Ground on Friday night in a fixture which is now a shadow of its former self. This year’s first tussle for the Brian Clough Trophy will be approached with even more trepidation from both sets of fans than usual with the relegation zone on their minds.
Make no mistake about it, these two have been appalling this season and have seven points between them from a possible 36. Forest, under new manager Chris Hughton, picked up their first win of the season at the weekend away at Blackburn and claimed another point in the week against Rotherham.
Derby have just three points which came courtesy of some trademark Wayne Rooney magic against Norwich three games back. They do rely heavily on the 34-year-old but he won’t be available on Friday night because he’s headed off into self-isolation after an unfortunate encounter with a watch salesman.
There have been rumours – denied by the club – that Rooney is poised to take over from under pressure Rams boss Phillip Cocu and there’s no doubt he will be a big miss for them on the pitch. With the rather bleak scene set, here’s your three best bets for Friday night’s big game.
Friday 19:45: Nottingham Forest v Derby
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There’s really not much between these two teams. However, one thing has changed recently – the arrival of the wily Hughton. The former Brighton boss replaced Sabri Lamouchi two games ago and, while it’s a very small sample, they have gone undefeated in those two, picking up four points in the process. A marked improvement.
It wouldn’t have taken much to improve on four straight defeats, but improve they have. His teams thrive on a basis of rock-solid defence and, if they can start scoring more freely, they will be moving in an upward direction in no time. With the Rams in a rut and their opponents on Friday feeling a bit better about themselves, it’s pointing towards a Nottingham Forest win and possibly the end of Cocu’s reign at Pride Park.
Both sides were quite open at the start of the season but they have begun to tighten things up recently. Derby’s last three games have seen just three goals, with a 1-0 win at Norwich and successive 1-0 losses against Watford and Huddersfield.
For Forest, they have seen more goal-mouth action recently (six goals in three games) but the arrival of Hughton will surely lead to more focus on defence. This will be a tight, nervy derby with both sides knowing three points, even at this early stage, could be crucial in shaping the rest of their season. I think we’ll see these two great rivals employing a safety-first policy where Under 1.5 Goals looks good value.
Lewis Grabban squandered a great chance to nick the three points against Rotherham late on Tuesday night and is yet to get off the mark this term. These things considered, it might seem a strange selection to put the former Sunderland man up as a first goal-scorer. However, the new Forest manager has come out and defended the 32-year-old who has started both games since he’s been in charge at the City Ground.
From Hughton’s comments you get the impression that the faith will be kept with Grabban and that he’ll start a third successive game with the backing of his boss boosting his confidence. You’d think he would be desperate to repay that and, in a market where options are a little slim as goals have been at a premium for both sides, the best bet is to back Lewis Grabban to Score First and silence the doubters. Well, for a few days at least.
Nottingham Forest v Derby tips
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