RAMS: (4-4-2) Fielding; Brayford, Barker, Ayala, Roberts; Green, Savage, Addison, Pearson; Robinson, Ward SUBS: Duke, Leacock, Bailey, B. Davies, Bueno, S. Davies, Porter
In the absence of any wingers and with the only remaining creative player apparently perma-benched, Clough seems to have little choice (in his own mind) but to string his four best midfielders across the middle of the park and hope they can grind something out. With Green shunted wide right, Savage and Addison will act as the least progressive central midfield pairing in history – unless James Bailey is thrown in, despite not being fully fit. Robinson and Ward will run around up front, if Ward has shaken off his tight hamstring. The overloaded back four has at least been settled for a couple of games. Frank is there to make a few saves – for now.
PREDICTED RESULT: Derby County 0 Swansea City 3
What can I say? Frankly, we’ve no chance. Swansea might have lost at Scunthorpe recently, but they will love the Pride Park pitch, zip the ball around, retain possession, infuriate the home supporters, dominate play, deploy fast widemen and ultimately pick us apart, whether through a forced mistake, or just through superior football. The fans will have a good volley of ‘sack the board’ and probably turn on Clough. Oh and Luke Moore is nailed on to score at least once.
A key difference is squad depth. Unlike the Rams, Swansea have options who can change a game from the bench. When they beat Leeds 3-0 recently, Darren Pratley, Cedric van der Gun and Craig Beattie – one of the many players Derby recently failed to loan – were all amongst the subs. I’m sure that any of those three players would walk into the team at Derby. So even if Derby manage to stay in the game for an hour, Brendan Rodgers will have the opportunity bring on fresh legs and change it up.
It gives me no pleasure to prophesise disaster, but really, can you see any other outcome?
At the time of going to press, Swansea are generally 11/10 to win, whereas Derby, the home team remember, are 5/2 (Victor Chandler is offering 11/4, but as he’s a Forest t*sser, don’t go down that road).
Relegation Watch – Coventry play host to 9th placed Hull City. Middlesbrough travel to Portsmouth. Crystal Palace have the toughest assignment of all, away at QPR. Scunthorpe host Swingin’ Sven and his Leopard Print Foxes. Sheffield United travel to Watford. Preston have the afternoon off, before their crucial trip to Scunny on Tuesday evening.
PREDICTIONS TO DATE
Scunthorpe United (A) 1-1 ACTUAL 0-0
Hull City (H) 1-1 ACTUAL 0-1
Sheffield United (A) 1-1 ACTUAL 1-0
Doncaster Rovers (H) 2-1 ACTUAL 1-3
Barnsley (H) 1-2 ACTUAL 0-0
Middlesbrough (A) 1-1 ACTUAL 1-2
Total predicted points = 7 / Actual points gained = 5 (-2)