The Rams entertain Brighton this Saturday in what promises to be a mouth-watering game at the iPro.
Although many people within football would have predicted Derby to be in their current high flying position, I’m betting very few outside of the Sussex seaside resort imagined Brighton would be topping the league as Christmas approached.
The Seagulls not only will arrive to the iPro at the weekend top of the table, and the first side to reach the 40 point mark this season, but, after 19 games played, they are still the only unbeaten team in the Football League – some achievement in one of the country’s most competitive league.
After Sunday’s lacklustre performance in the goalless draw against Sheffield Wednesday, I’m sure head coach Paul Clement will looking for a big improvement, especially from the Rams’ attacking players, who did not fire on all cylinders at Hillsborough.
One good game can change everything and something that has happened frequently over the last few seasons, especially at home, is that ‘big performance’ when it matters the most. That second-leg of the play-off semi-final in 2013 for example, against Saturday’s opponents, will live long in the memory.
The current Brighton team will arrive at the iPro on the back of an excellent comeback last Saturday against Charlton, where indeed it looked like their unbeaten run was coming to an end when they found themselves 2-0 down after only five minutes.
For boss Chris Hughton, this game will be seen as their biggest test of this season so far. The Rams are hard to beat these days – with a solid back-five and a midfield that most Championship clubs could only dream of. If Derby get it right up front this weekend, then they could have enough to inflict Brighton’s first defeat.
The Seagulls have in their ranks of course a certain Bobby Zamora – back at the club where it all started for him. He has been scoring some important goals for them this term as well. I’m sure he will receive a warm welcome after breaking Rams hearts in the play-off final a couple of seasons ago when he scored a last gasp winner for QPR at Wmebley. They also now have the young James Wilson on loan from Manchester United, a player who was linked with Derby earlier in the season.
So it’s all set up to be a thriller, and it’s on a Saturday afternoon at 3pm with not a Sky camera in sight. Personally I can’t wait. I’m expecting a really tough game but if we play like we know we can then we should be good enough to give Brighton their first taste of defeat this season.
Earlier in the week, the Rams were drawn away to Salford City or Hartlepool United in the third round of the FA Cup. A chance to progress or a potential banana skin of a tie? Do we even need the distraction this season? What do you think?