Leicester come into this weekend’s match on the back of a defeat against Leeds United at Elland Road. Despite going behind very early on, Nigel Pearson’s men were unable to claw back the deficit and suffered their third defeat in seven Championship matches. It’s a run which has seen them slip off the pace of the top two – five points behind league leaders Cardiff. Saturday’s match against fierce Midlands’ rivals Derby is another test of their title credentials and is probably a good match for them to get back on track. The crowd will be behind them and they are up against a side who has struggled to get consistency away from home.
Derby have enjoyed a fruitful five days with a win and a draw from their last couple of home games. An entertaining 3-2 victory against Birmingham last Saturday was followed by a battling 1-1 draw against the current league leaders on Tuesday evening. The challenge for Derby is to be able to recreate their home form on the road. To date, they have won just two away games this season scoring a measly seven goals in nine games. It will be frustrating for Nigel Clough as it’s the predominant reason as to why they are not sitting within the top six, having lost just one match at Pride Park all season. Their supporters will feel that there is unlikely to be a better place to notch their third win of the season than on Saturday at one of their oldest foes.
There has been a noticeable trimming of Leicester’s squad this season under Pearson. Despite a large amount of expense last summer under Paulo Sousa, the current manager has sought to reduce the amount of first team players and work with a smaller group. The hope is that those left thrive on the pressure and playing regularly to build a momentum. One man who has certainly benefited from playing every week is Dave Nugent. Despite appearing to have lost his way in recent season, the striker has renewed confidence and it’s resulted in him being one short of double figures in league goals.
Having watched Derby’s home match with Birmingham I was impressed with Will Hughes in the central midfield. Although just 17, a lot of the play went through him and he was responsible for starting several attacks. He’s been carrying an injury since that game, however, and his participation in Saturday’s match is in doubt. Should he be absent it would be a massive loss for the away side but I imagine he’ll be given every possible opportunity by the manager.
It promises to be a tight affair as Leicester have the second best defensive record in the league whilst Derby are not prolific scorers away from Pride Park. I believe the home side possesses the greater quality but derby matches have a way of leveling the playing field. That being said, it really is a must win match for Leicester and I think they will just edge proceedings.
Leicester 7/10 @ BlueSquare