Forest and Derby battle, but will they follow in Foxes footsteps?
Championship leaders Nottingham Forest have won just one of the last six East Midlands derbies against bitter rivals Derby County, but Coral are content to make Stuart Pearce’s side 5/4 favourites for victory at the City Ground.
The Rams, sitting just outside the play-off places and a tempting 11/5 to take all three points here, thrashed the Reds in their last encounter 5-0, though admittedly that was at Pride Park. Odds for a rare draw (there’s been one in the last dozen) are 23/10.
Forest can erase recent memories of derby day demolition, however, because summer signings Michail Antonio and Britt Assombalonga are bang in form. Both have four goals in all competitions, with winger Antonio 2/1 in the anytime market and the former Peterborough frontman at 6/5.
Pearce must decide whether to recall Matty Fryatt, a free transfer signing from Hull City, to partner Assombalonga in attack, having played five in midfield against Sheffield Wednesday last time out. If ‘Psycho’ is positive in his tactical approach, then Fryatt is a 6/1 shot to score first.
Reds playmaker Andy Reid and captain Chris Cohen have previous goals in this derby to their name, and come in at 4/1 and 6/1 respectively to net again. Pearce could also make defensive changes, with Jamaal Lascelles and Kelvin Wilson pushing for starts at the back, plus anchorman David Vaughan.
Steve McClaren, meanwhile, is sweating on the fitness of Northern Ireland forward Jamie Ward, who picked up an injury on international duty. Playing wide of Scotland striker Chris Martin in County’s front three, Ward has also been a derby day delight in the past. Odds of 2/1 say he will score anytime if involved.
Box-to-box midfielder Craig Bryson hit a hat-trick in the Rams’ 5-0 rout of Forest last term, though a repeat performance is a long 66/1 shot here. Odds of 10/3 in the anytime market are tempting enough. Top scorer Martin is shorter at 7/4.
Derby will definitely be without Jeff Hendrick, so England Under-21 star Will Hughes can expect a midfield berth. Summer signing George Thorne is the visitors’ only long-term absentee with a serious knee injury. This East Midlands battle has the potential to shape the season for both the Reds and County.
Brian Clough links these bitter rivals, and his former top-flight winning teams are both expected to figure in the promotion race, having seen neighbours Leicester City go up to the Premier League for the first time in a decade. Going into the weekend, Forest were 2/1 joint-favourites with Norwich City to follow suit, while the Rams are hot on their heels at 11/5.
The Reds have kept five clean sheets this season so far, including both home matches played so far, and their Derby hoodoo could end here, with a win to nil splendid value at 18/5.