Ah, Blues. Just as we got our hopes up, you went and screwed it up. A depressing home loss to Preston – not necessarily the result, but the manner of it – don’t have Blues fans too excited with the prospect of Derby away. Pep Clotet has pressure on him to find a winning line-up, or at least an exciting one, and Pride Park is not an easy place to start that. But then, neither was Charlton, and that went okay. Normally, of course Derby would be a tough game, but they have their own issues.
Derby have had a tumultuous week, with captain Richard Keogh being ruled out for the rest of the season after his involvement in a drink driving scandal, which left Tom Lawrence and Mason Bennett facing charges. They’ve had a mixed start to the season, with 8 points from 8 games, but a draw with Leeds and Cardiff in their last two should bring some optimism to the Rams’ fans.
Blues have only Montero and Kieftenbeld missing from their first team squad, though Jonathan Grounds needs more game time before he could be considered for the first team again. Rumours online suggest, however, that David Davis may miss the game as he awaits the birth of his child – if true, we wish him all the best! With so many options, the onus is on Clotet to find an front line that works. Gimenez looked tidy in his cameo off the bench, and was the only player who really had a shot, while Villalba is likely to be considered again. Blues fans would love to see Villalba and Crowley playing together, while Bellingham will probably drop back to the bench.
Derby, as mentioned, may be without three first team players (though the arrested players may still make the squad), but do welcome back Jayden Bogle to their squad.
Blues haven’t beaten Derby in their last six games, with the last victory being a 3-0 away win in 2016 – Paul Robinson scored the opener, and Kieftenbeld scored a lovely volley to seal it. Last time they played, it was 2-2 within half an hour and finished that way, with Jutkiewicz and Morrison scoring for Blues. Away from home, Blues lost 1-3, with Juke once again scoring.
If rumours are to be believed, we think Gary Gardner will replace Davis and give Blues a more offensive edge from midfield. Fran Villalba may come back into the fray, though we think Gimenez might start alongside Juke again.
Pep Clotet spoke about the last week, and the threat Derby pose: “Very positive despite the game on Saturday when we didn’t get result. The training has been fantastic. I see a squad that is motivated on moving forwards. Despite the result we put in a good performance. We know there are a few things that we need to be better at particularly at home. We realise the mistakes but there are still a lot of positives from Saturday, we nullified the opposition and they only had one half chance on our goal. We know we have to do more and better. But I see the mentality in the squad, and they’ve put in a really good week of training ahead of Derby to make sure a good performance is backed up with a good result.”
“They’ve got a lot of quality in their squad. It’s been a tough place for us to go in the last few years. Last year we lost 3-1 there and it was a tough day. This season at home although they have not won yet, I’ve seen a lot of the games they’ve played. I remember their first game of the season against West Brom. West Brom are a strong team and they didn’t manage to win. Neither did Swansea and Cardiff. Although it’s a very tough place to go, we go there with a lot of motivation. Despite not winning against Preston we are still a very solid team and a team that is growing week by week and we want to put that on the pitch.”
Phillip Cocu, Derby Manager, spoke about a tough week going into the Blues clash: “The incident (the crash in which several Derby players were involved in on Tuesday evening) has had an effect on the team and we have had to deal with it with short term notice. because Saturday is a very important game. We’ve lost an important player in Richard (Keogh) and we have to deal with it together, but we need to focus on the game on Saturday as well. At every club I’ve played at and managed you face incidents of some kind and it’s how you deal with them and trying to deal with them in the right way. We need the fans to support us to get the right result against Birmingham. It would be the ideal time to get that first home win. But it will definitely be a difficult game against Birmingham because they are very strong and a difficult team to play, so we need to focus on the game. We cannot underestimate any opponent especially now, but if we can get a win and some good results in these next couple of weeks it can change a lot inside of the team.”