Rowetts Rams arrive at St.Andrews today in a good run of form under their newly appointed boss. The visit will be the first time Gary Rowett has returned to face the club that sacked him in a bizarre mid season turn around.
There’s a lot to decide on for Gianfranco Zola in his team selection as the injury list has dwindled down to just one senior absence in the shape of centre back Michael Morrison. In a rivalry like this, the game will demand some leadership and with Robinson and Davis not playing in the loss at the Amex on Tuesday night, they could return to the starting eleven. The tenacious display against Wolves earned an unlikely derby win which saw every player give their all under Zola. This must happen again if Blues are to emulate another derby victory.
Four changes were made in the loss to Brighton on Tuesday night with David Davis, Lukus Jutkiewicz, Paul Robinson and Maikel Kieftenbeld all sitting out ahead of Derby’s visit. To upset Derby, a formation that strikes the balance between the attacking threat Zola has stood by in favour of, and defence which has been pushed aside in his reign needs to be played. This would mean having a back three with wing backs and the diamond midfield which has seen some noticeable success in games against Newcastle and Wolves.
The defence could be shaken up a bit, having Jonathan Grounds come in for Cheick Keita at left wing back whilst Emilio Nsue occupies the right wing back place. Experienced centre half Paul Robinson would be alongside Ryan Shotton with Krystian Bielik then completing the defence who looks a very exciting prospect in the limited games he has played so far this season. Winger Kerim Frei should be given the opportunity to start and show more of the skill only glimpsed by fans since his £2.2 million arrival in January. As they were both rested, David Davies and Maikel Kieftenbled look to make starts along with Craig Gardner amongst the midfield. Che Adams will complete the diamond, the only scorer for Blues in the weeks game at the Amex with either Clayton Donaldson or Lukus Jutkiewicz ahead of him. The dilemma up top bodes better for Jutkiewicz who is on a healthy return of 11 goals the season but Zola may feel Donaldson is due the start and a goal following his lengthy time out with injury.
Good news for the back line as Darren Bent is likely to be out of the squad due to a groin injury; the once Villain scored the winner from the spot in the reverse fixture. Their other main threat in the attacking ranks is fit though. David Nugent is in fine form in his recent games scoring five in his past six games and netting himself a hat trick in the game against Fulham in the week.
The Rams have overturned their poor run prior to Rowetts appointment, picking up 7 from a possible 9 points. Their midweek game saw them put four past Fulham as a David Nugent hat trick claimed all 3 points leaving them with back to back home wins and unbeaten with Rowett at the helm. If anyone knows the play offs its Derby who find themselves 6 points outside it with the same amount of games to go. Arguably, the pressure is on Derby somewhat to keep their slim chance of grabbing the final play off place. However, this is exactly why the former player was brought in – to steady the play off ship and ensure they don’t sink it themselves at the end of the season.
Meanwhile, every game without a win is piling on more pressure to Zolas position as manager. The downfall ever since he took his first game in charge back in December is showing no signs of stopping and is only plunging us further into the relegation battle. The commitment to the cause has already come under question when the games need to be won. The question is are the players, under Zola, going to show us that they are up for this fight?