It doesn’t get any bigger than this for Nottingham Forest and Derby, in particular, the Fans, they look forward to it from the moment the fixtures are announced in pre-season.
No other match brings the anticipation, excitement, and nerves that this one does. A win will last long in the memory whilst a defeat will haunt you, it’s quite simply the biggest match of the season.
The sides have already met at the City Ground this season, just over 2 months ago Forest ran out comfortable 3-0 winners.
How ever satisfying that night was, this will mean so much more as that night was almost 2 second-string sides.
Forest will more than likely still be without key trio Michael Dawson, Samba Sow and Alfa Semedo. The trio’s absence played a massive role in the recent defeats to Wigan and Hull City, Dawson was said to back in training this week, however a place in the team remains unlikely.
The return of Ryan Yates in midfield helped fill the void left by Sow and Semedo in last weekend’s win over Luton.
I would largely stick with that line up with only Jack Robinson coming in to provide extra defensive nous at left back for Yuri Ribeiro.
Tom Lawrence, who has endured a challenging couple of months after being convicted of drink-driving, netted two goals in Saturday’s Pride Park win over Middlesbrough, a fourth straight home success. He is a key man for Derby, but in my opinion he shouldn’t be available for selection following the drink-driving incident, which also involved teammate Mason Bennett and saw Captain Richard Keogh injured for the season and subsequently suspended by the club.
The Professional Footballers’ Association has said it will “robustly defend” Richard Keogh after his dismissal, the BBC has reported.
Lawrence and Bennett were both fined six weeks’ wages by the Rams and pleaded guilty to drink driving. “We will robustly defend our member because we feel he has been unfairly treated,” said a PFA spokesman.
Keogh, 33, suffered a knee injury in the crash on 24 September and will be out for around 15 months. His contract was due to expire in 2021.
It is understood Derby offered Keogh a revised deal on reduced wages. The player will appeal against Derby’s decision and the PFA have told him they will back him in that and any subsequent challenge to his dismissal because they do not view the treatment of Keogh as being in line with the action taken against Lawrence and Bennett.
In announcing Keogh’s dismissal, Derby said they would not comment further until the outcome of any appeal was known.
In any other professionalism if you are convicted of a serious crime your job would be at risk. The fact that Lawrence is a professional footballer, who is in the public eye and gets to play is sending out the wrong message.
Lawrence is set for unpleasant reception on Saturday but says Derby will be ready for the cauldron atmosphere awaiting them at – and is plotting to silence a sold-out City Ground.
“We all know how big this game is coming on Saturday so we will be ready for it.
“Yes, as expected,” the 25-year-old then said when asked about the vibrant Trentside atmosphere, saying his teammates know what’s needed to record a rare win in Nottingham.
The Rams are looking to claim a first win on Trentside since September 2012, and in the process dent Forest’s promotion hopes.
Forest got back to winning ways last weekend with a 2-1 success away at Luton, this was a vital victory following 2 successive defeats at Wigan and Home to Hull City as the last thing Forest would have wanted would have been to go into the Derby game on the back of three successive defeats.
Although, Forest defender Joe Worrall says, “On track? We were never off it” previous to these defeats Forest hadn’t lost in the league since the opening day of the season and they sit 5th in the table (with a game in hand due to the match against reading being postponed) and have an opportunity to close the gap on league leaders, West Bromwich Albion who are five points in front.
Derby are 10 places below, but only four points behind Forest.
Their home form has kept them in touch with the top six, however, on the road, things have been marked different for the Rams who haven’t tasted victory since the opening night at Huddersfield.
It is sure to be a heated encounter, as ever. A strong referee that won’t fall for any nonsense will be required, there will be some strong challenges and players trying to deceive the referee and it is vital he doesn’t lose control.
He can’t produce unnecessary cards or let players get away with anything early on.
Darren England will be the man in the middle for the match, he has officiated two Forest matches already this season, with the Reds suffering defeats on both occasions.
The pre-match build-up will be added to as Forest will pay tribute to all those who lost their lives in conflict ahead of the match at the City Ground.
Before kick-off, there will be a performance of the Last Post from the Military band, while both sets of players will be sporting the poppy on the front of their shirts for the game itself.