It’s second v third at Turf Moor this weekend, writes Jamie Smith.
Burnley v Derby County
15:00 – Turf Moor – Sky Bet Championship
It’s another massive match at Fortress Turf Moor, with that second promotion spot up for grabs.
Leicester City are showing no signs of giving up the title, so at the moment it looks like us or Derby for second place after QPR fell away. Burnley can extend their lead over the Rams to five points with a victory, but defeat would see Derby leapfrog the Clarets into second.
Sean Dyche is likely to name the same XI for the seventh match in a row assuming he has no late injury scares. After last weekend’s superb first half performance in a 3-1 demolition of promotion rivals Nottingham Forest, there’s no need for changes.
Brian Stock is the only doubt in the squad with a back problem. Ashley Barnes, still waiting for his first start for the club, scored for the development squad in midweek. Junior Stanislas was also on the scoresheet in the friendly win over Stoke City.
Former England manager Steve McClaren will also be pleased with his options after three 1-0 wins on the spin for the Rams. Ex-Wolves left-back Lee Naylor has been signed and could go straight into the squad for tomorrow’s match.
Derby have a solid mix of experienced professionals like defender Richard Keogh and former Clarets goalkeeper Lee Grant, mixed with some of the best young players in the league.
Shock-haired teenage midfield dynamo Will Hughes has attracted interest from Liverpool, while Patrick Bamford, on loan from Chelsea, has been a revelation. Bamford was at MK Dons until January and with a queue of Championship teams looking to take him, chose Derby. He’s scored five goals for the Rams already after notching up 14 for MK Dons.
Right-back Andre Wisdom, borrowed from Liverpool, is another future star. Johnny Russell, signed for £750,000 from Dundee United in the summer, is a talented attacker but hasn’t scored since October while 25-year-old Chris Martin, at his fourth club, seems to have settled. He’s got 18 goals this season, including three in his last five appearances.
The Clarets will be looking for Danny Ings to break a three-game goallless spell – a drought by his incredibly high standards this season – but Sam Vokes has shouldered the extra burden comfortably enough with five goals in his last five appearances. The Vings boys have been making history all season and are well on track to score over 50 goals between them this year and both will be on international duty in midweek.
If Burnley avoid defeat tomorrow, it will be a year since the Clarets have lost at Fortress Turf Moor.
NOTE: No Nay Never is showing our new derby day short film – We Are These People – on the big screen at half time tomorrow. Keep your eyes open…
It’s three 1-0 wins on the spin for McClaren’s men and Derby are unbeaten in almost two months, since they lost at home to Wigan, went out of the FA Cup to Chelsea and were battered 4-1 at Leicester City in the first ten days of 2014.
The Rams have an excellent away record and have only lost at three grounds – Loftus Road, the City Ground and the King Power Stadium. But they’ve only won once on the road in 2014, at Hillsborough, drawing at Birmingham City and Blackburn Rovers.
Derby next face struggling Millwall and Bolton in a home double-header, so perhaps a point would suit them from their trip to Turf Moor.
Dangerman: Patrick Bamford
Although Chris Martin is the Rams’ leading scorer this season, Bamford is arguably their biggest goal threat.
The Chelsea 20-year-old striker was in demand in January but looks to have chosen wisely by moving to Derby. Bamford’s five goals in eight games for County have forced them into automatic promotion contention.
A physical forward with an eye for spectacular goals, Bamford isn’t likely to be in the Championship again next season and looks destined for big things. He was signed by Chelsea as a teenager from Nottingham Forest without a single senior goal to his name.
Manager: Steve McClaren
Steve McClaren might forever be known as the ‘Wally with the Brolly’ after England’s unsuccessful European Championships qualifying campaign with him at the helm, but his club career has been mostly successful, if mixed.
After a period at Old Trafford as Sir Alex Ferguson’s assistant, McClaren flew the nest to go it alone at Middlesbrough. Despite regularly improving Boro’s final position in the Premier League year-on-year, McClaren developed a reputation as a cup specialist, leading the club to the FA Cup semi-finals twice and winning the League Cup. Boro also surprisingly made it to the UEFA Cup final under McClaren, losing 4-0 to Sevilla after two incredible comebacks in the previous rounds.
That cup reputation earned McClaren the chance to manage his country in the summer of 2006, but after just 16 months and that Wembley defeat to Croatia in the rain, he was sacked.
McClaren headed to Holland to rebuild his reputation and enjoyed more cup progress at FC Twente, including success in Europe, before leading the club to their first ever league title. He then moved to Bundesliga side Wolfsburg, but lasted only eight months at his new team before getting the sack.
A brief spell at Nottingham Forest which included the signing of Andy Reid proved disastrous as off-the-field boardroom troubles overshadowed his return to English football. McClaren resigned after only ten league matches.
Now back where he started as an assistant manager almost 20 years ago, McClaren looks determined to prove himself again in the Premier League. Nigel Clough’s sacking appeared harsh, but McClaren has taken a talented young squad up a level and made them serious promotion rivals to Burnley.
Burnley have one of the tightest defences in the Football League and Derby haven’t conceded in three matches, so it should be a close game. But with so much attacking talent on display, expect goals as well.
If Burnley play as well as they did in the first half last weekend, they could blow the Rams away, just as they obliterated Forest’s long unbeaten run.
McClaren will know a fourth straight win would put his Derby side second in the league and make them the new favourites to go up with Leicester, but Sean Dyche’s men have risen to every challenge they’ve faced this season and will do so again tomorrow.
Danny Ings, on a dry spell of three without a goal, will be on the scoresheet.
What’s your prediction for the match? Comment below.