Why Nottingham Forest can’t afford to see Red in East Midlands derby
We’ll witness a fierce clash between two historic rivals when Derby County hosts Nottingham Forest at Pride Park on Monday night.
After 21 Championship matchdays, playoff contenders are emerging from the early season shadows. Two sides from the East Midlands can be mentioned in that category but it’s Aitor Karanka’s Nottingham Forest who still aren't fully in the light.
As often the case with derbies, this one promises end-to-end action, high intensity and goals. We wouldn’t mind a little drama either. Fans have been warned to behave.
Derby delight for Lampard?
During his pre-match press conference, Derby County manager Frank Lampard wasn't coy
Why not get excited? The whole place should be buzzing.
Lampard’s excitement is reasonable. He played and won many heated derbies. This is his biggest as a manager, though, coming against a more seasoned gaffer who studied under Lampard’s former coach at Chelsea. Even so, the former England midfielder has done fine at the helm going so far as to beat that manager in the EFL Cup. On the other hand, he's two points below Gary Rowett's mark from last term.
How things stand
In seventh, Nottingham Forest could leapfrog the fifth-place Rams with a win. In terms of goals scored and conceded, the two are not far apart. Derby records 31 and 24, Forest 32 and 22.
The venue will play a part. Forest have stuttered on their travels, winning one in their past four. Meanwhile, Derby has won three from four at home.
Pressure on Aitor Karanka and Forest
The Reds Spanish boss agreed his side haven’t been good in previous derby matches. They last won at Pride Park in January 2015, their previous three visits 1-0, 3-0 and 2-0 setbacks. It’s now five consecutive meetings without a win for Forest in the East Midlands derby.
Clearly, the statistics don’t favour Karanka and Forest. Coming here, the feeling is more of hope than excitement, knowing they’ll be tested in every department by Derby’s high-octane football. They can’t blink first.
Unless they can match Derby punch for punch in midfield, they don't stand a chance. Mason Mount and Craig Bryson have combined for five goals and three assists this season. Derby’s play almost always goes through them. Then there’s Tom Huddlestone. Released by Forest as a 12-year-old, he always has a point to prove against them.
Somehow, this is where Karanka must win the tactical battle.
Injury troubles for Reds
The manager is certainly sweating over Forest’s rearguard. Without Michael Dawson, their seven-game unbeaten run came to an end at home to Preston North End. The combative defender is sidelined for at least a month.
Without Dawson to nullify forwards like Harry Wilson (seven goals, one assist) and Jack Marriott (six goals, two assists), it’s hard to see Forest escaping unscathed from this one.
In addition to Dawson, Danny Fox is doubtful with a bad foot; Tobias Figueiredo is suspended.
The experienced gaffer can’t afford to lose
Few managers in the Championship are as experienced as Karanka. He's guided a team to promotion and won multiple Manager of the Month awards.
He must bring that experience to the fore in a match where the odds are stacked against him. Karanka has to prepare his team for the intimidating atmosphere at Pride Park. Forest have suffered enough there. You can bet the boss would love to put an end to it.