Wednesday 23rd February 2016 Kickoff: 1945hrs Derby County v Blackburn Rovers Football – England – Championship
Following the surprise sacking of Paul Clement earlier this month, Derby County have had to regroup and attempt to continue their quest for promotion to the Premier League. Clement was only installed as manager at the iPro Stadium last summer, and despite the club being in the top six at the time of his departure, the board decided that a change was needed. Darren Wassall was promoted to interim manager between now and the end of the campaign which is something of a gamble as his only previous experience has been with the club’s youth academy. Derby remain one of the most talented squads in the Championship and the expectation will be the same – promotion. Whether that is automatic or via the playoffs, time will tell. Wassall has overseen two games in charge thus far, losing at home to relegation-threatened MK Dons before a comprehensive 3-1 success at Brentford on Saturday. Those results, and the matches played on Tuesday night, mean the Rams are in sixth place coming into this one, eight points behind second-placed Burnley, and a further point adrift of current leaders Hull.
It was an extremely disappointing end to Blackburn’s FA Cup campaign as they were eliminated by Premier League West Ham, losing 5-1 at Ewood Park on Sunday. It started so well for Paul Lambert’s men as they took the lead but they simply could not deal with the quality of the top-flight club and were well beaten in the end. It leaves them solely focussing on remaining in the Championship for another season. Despite having three games in hand over the majority of teams below and around them, Rovers are still only eight points clear of the bottom three and will have to be wary of being sucked into a scrap in the remaining three months of the campaign. Lambert – who took charge following the sacking of Gary Bowyer towards the end of last year – has struggled for results of late and come his team have picked up only one league win in their last 10 games. It’s somewhat of a surprise as Blackburn had shown improvement in the immediate period after the manager’s appointment. Lambert will be hoping that their last league game – a 3-0 win over Fulham – is a sign that they’re getting back to something like the form shown in November and early December.
It’s anybody’s guess whether or not Clement’s sacking was purely football related or there was something else at play, but the change has been made and it’s up to the players that the former manager helped assemble to finish the job. One thing that Wassall will want to improve, and quickly, is Derby’s home record. The iPro has traditionally been something a fortress at this level but this season has seen them win just seven of their 16 home games. They actually have an identical record as they do away from home, and for any team that wishes to go up automatically from this division, they simply need to pick up more points at home. To put it into context, all the teams above them in the top six have won at least three more home games and that could prove ultimately to be the difference between finishing in the top two or having to go through the playoffs.
You do not have to look far to see what Rovers’ biggest failing has been this season. A quick look at their goals for, and comparing it to the other 24 teams in the league tells its own story. Only bottom club Charlton have scored fewer goals than Blackburn this season, and even accounting for the fact they have those games in hand, it’s an issue that doesn’t appear to be showing any signs of getting better – at least not consistently. The three goals they scored at home to Fulham was the first time they had scored more than a goal in a league game since the 5th of December. Their nine games in-between those fixtures seen them manage just three goals. The sale of Jordan Rhodes in the January transfer window will clearly not help matters, and it has to be an area that Lambert looks to improve upon.
Derby County v Blackburn Rovers Tips
Unsurprisingly, for two teams who have strong defences, Blackburn and Derby played out a rather lifeless goalless draw back in October at Ewood Park. We can only hope for a better and more entertaining encounter on Wednesday but it’s hard to envisage a deluge of goals. In actual fact, only two of the last eight meetings have ended up going over 2.5 goals. I expect more of the same tomorrow but I’m happy to ignore the goal markets in this one.
I still rate Derby was one of the best side’s in this league, certainly better than their current sixth position. That said, the team are running out of games to show that and one win in their last nine is simply not good enough. The interim manager would have been delighted with the response to the loss at home to MK Dons, however, and the result and performance away to Brentford could be the jumpstart that Derby’s season is in need of.
Although Blackburn are not on a great run of form themselves at present, they rarely lose heavily and have only conceded 16 goals on their travels. On the reverse side of that, though, they have won only three away games and may not have the firepower to trouble the home side on this occasion. With the quality Derby possess I am banking on them dominating possession and finding the net on at least one occasion to gain a vital three points.
Derby 17/20 @ Bet365