October has been a Carlsberg kind of month.
We held off Brentford with 10-men and beat Rotherham United at home. We watched England draw in Croatia and beat Spain before witnessing our boys depart Stoke victorious and leave Reading and Sheffield Wednesday with the sour taste of defeat.
Blues are no longer relegation fodder. We are 11 games unbeaten and sit just two points off the play-off places. A victory on Saturday would see us leapfrog 6th place Derby County and potentially enter the top six. Imagine that.
The Rams have been through it all in recent years. They’ve come within one game of promotion with one of the finest sides to grace the second tier aesthetically. They’ve witnessed Steve McClaren fail twice, Paul Clement spend plenty but deliver little, Nigel Pearson fall woefully short and Gary Rowett fall at the final hurdle again. Nothing has worked.
Lampard has ripped the script up. Players have been moved on and several have joined, the majority being younger players with energy to burn and rawness to coach. Fiyako Tomori and Jayden Bogle are new in defence, Mason Mount has started every game in midfield while Tom Lawrence has been joined by Harry Wilson, Martyn Waghorn and Jack Marriott.
The younger legs are being helped along by wily stars that have been around the block and seen it all. Scott Carson, Curtis Davies, Richard Keogh, Tom Huddlestone, Craig Bryson and David Nugent all remain and Lampard clearly has trust in his older squad members to help run the dressing room, keep everybody in line and set the tempo. As a neutral, Derby have become a joy to watch on the field.
Derby come into the weekend’s game on the back of an energy-sapping 3-2 defeat at Chelsea in the Carling, Capital One, Carabao Cup, Frank Lampard returning to his home from home in an emotionally charged fixture that ultimately ended with them being knocked out of the competition.
Their focus now returns to the Championship where they will be very wary of the threat that Garry Monk’s Blues pose. After all, Blues have beaten Leeds United and Stoke City on their home patches and ought to have beat league leaders Sheffield United when the two sides met.
It makes Saturday a fascinating fixture. Derby are unbeaten at home in their last six, winning four, scoring ten and conceding just three. Blues are unbeaten away in five and haven’t lost since the middle of August.
Derby have goals in abundance in the form of Wilson, Mount, Lawrence, Marriott, Martyn Waghorn, Nugent, Bennett. But they will be taking one of the most organised, efficient outfits in the division with a front pairing that has now scored 12 goals this season.
The build-up will focus on two sides protecting impressive runs of form at the weekend yet neither side will be thinking about protection as they bid to continue their ongoing streaks.
It could be a cracker.
George Evans and Craig Bryson are unlikely to feature due to ongoing injuries. Derby could start with the same XI that faced Chelsea in midweek.
The big news for Blues is that Harlee Dean is fit and available despite leaving the field early against Sheffield Wednesday. Isaac Vassell and David Davis remain out while Jacques Maghoma is expected to miss the next couple of games.
Derby County: 6th
Overall: Played 15; Won 7, Drawn 4, Lost 4; For 22, Against 16, GD 6; Points 25
Last six at home: Played 6; Won 4, Drawn 2, Lost 0; For 10, Against 3, GD 7; Points 14
Most starts: Richard Keogh, Scott Carson & Mason Mount – 15
Most goals: Tom Lawrence – 4
Worst discipline: Bradley Johnson, Martyn Waghorn & Craig Bryson – 4 yellow cards
Birmingham City: 9th
Overall: Played 15; Won 5, Drawn 8, Lost 2; For 19, Against 14, GD 5; Points 23
Last six away: Played 6; Won 2, Drawn 3, Lost 1; For 6, Against 5, GD 1; Points 9
Most starts: Colin, Morrison, Dean, Pedersen, Jota, Jutkiewicz – 15
Most goals: Lukas Jutkiewicz – 8
Worst discipline: Maikel Kieftenbeld – 3 yellow cards & 1 red card
Last five played:
Queens Park Rangers 1-1 Derby County
Derby County 2-1 Sheffield United
West Bromwich Albion 1-4 Derby County
Middlesbrough 1-1 Derby County
Chelsea 3-2 Derby County
Brentford 1-1 Blues
Blues 3-1 Rotherham United
Stoke City 0-1 Blues
Blues 2-1 Reading
Blues 3-1 Sheffield Wednesday
When we last met:
Birmingham City 0-3 Derby County
After winning three games on the bounce, Blues welcomed Derby County to St.Andrews in good spirits. We performed like a side in form but were put to the sword by a ruthless Derby performance. Jonathan Grounds hit the post, Russell snuck the ball into the near post. Gardner forced a good save from distance, Vydra rifles one into the top corner. Boga sees a header just tipped over the bar, Nugent bypasses his man and finds Russell for a tap-in. It was all a bit too easy.
Opposition Player to Watch: Mason Mount
Quite simply, this kid is a joy to watch. At 19, Mount is already proving to be one of the finest talents in the English game, a young midfielder with a forward-thinking, creative approach to his game and somebody Derby are already relying on to run their football matches. No Derby player has more shots per game and only Bersant Celina and Oliver Norwood play more key passes per game in the entire Championship. He’s already received an England call-up and Lampard rates him very, very highly.
Derby County 1-1 Birmingham City
Blues’ next five fixtures:
10/11/2018: Hull City (H) – 15:00
25/11/2018: Aston Villa (A) – 12:00
28/11/2018: Millwall (A) – 19:45
01/12/2018: Preston North End (H) – 15:00
08/12/2018: Bristol City (H) – 15:00