Derby obliged in the last round when they proved too good for League One Tranmere and their reward for winning that match is another home game, this time against fellow Championship side Blackburn. The win against Tranmere was their last win but they have performed with credit in their last couple of league games, especially the derby match last weekend against Nottingham Forest. Despite going down 1-0 in the first half, the Rams were the better side throughout and got their reward in the second half with a deserved equaliser. The draw leaves Nigel Clough’s outfit six points off of the final play-off position and we’re all aware that in the Championship that is far from insurmountable, especially for a side such as Derby who have a plethora of attacking options and have looked a very dynamic side for much of the campaign.
The soap opera that is Blackburn Rovers season is entering its third act, or is that fourth?! It’s hard to keep track. Michael Appleton is the current incumbent and he himself is in has made his way through several clubs already this season. It’s been a less than auspicious start to his career at Ewood Park with just one point from his first two league games, both at home. Rovers may well consider themselves unfortunate not to have taken all three points from Brighton on Wednesday night as a 97th minute penalty rescued a point for the away side. Cup competitions can often act as a welcome distraction for teams who are not achieving in their league and it could be the case for Appleton and Blackburn. A win on Saturday against a side who sit directly above them in the league could be the catalyst to spark a revival in the Championship.
These one off matches can bring about a bit extra from squads, especially with young players. The escape from league actions alleviates some pressure and allows players to perform freely and express themselves a bit more. It should suit the likes of Will Hughes, Jamie Ward and Craig Bryson. All three have been impressive for County in the league and have proved to be the difference in several games.
Blackburn have a bigger squad than most Championship sides such is their financial clout. Appleton has named similar teams in his two games to date so may use this match as an opportunity to bring in others and get a look at them before resuming league duty. There’s no getting away from the mess at the club under the current owners, however, and the last thing he’ll want is a bad result which would heap even more negativity upon the team.
Regular readers will be aware of my admiration for Derby and their style of play. If pushed, I would side with home team to progress to the next round but Blackburn are so unpredictable so instead, go for over two goals in the game as there will be plenty of attacking talent on display.
Over 2.5 goals 10/11 @ William Hill