Wednesday night’s 3-2 loss at Chelsea was a significant night for Derby County.

The Rams produced an excellent performance against the Premier League giants and, had Martyn Waghorn or David Nugent taken very presentable chances, they could easily have made the EFL Cup quarter-finals.

For the likes of Fikayo Tomori and Mason Mount, on loan from the Blues, it was partly an opportunity to show Maurizio Sarri their capabilities.

For their own manager, Frank Lampard, the game represented a way of bringing meaningful closure to his playing career at Stamford Bridge, which ended in 2014 without a proper farewell.

After such a big occasion for various reasons, Derby are likely to be in reflective mood – yet they have just two days to prepare for a very challenging league fixture.

Currently, the East Midlanders are one of just two Championship sides available at odds-on quotes this weekend and the prices imply traders have a lot of confidence in Derby: potentially more than they have merited.

We know already that, with wide forwards like Tom Lawrence and Harry Wilson available, they have a very talented, energetic team capable of producing eye-catching performances under the bright lights.

That though, does not automatically translate into reliability and consistency which they will need to win promotion.

In Derby’s televised Championship fixtures, they average 2 points per game – and that’s against teams in an average position of 7th.

In their non-televised Championship fixtures, they average just 1.5 points per game – against teams in an average position of 17th.

There is a possibility, therefore, that with tired legs they will struggle to put in the same freshness of preparation this weekend against Birmingham City who, by contrast, have had a full week to prepare.

Garry Monk’s side are unbeaten in 11 league matches – the longest second-tier invincible streak since the 23-game one set by Fulham, which Blues ended in May.

Not only that, the B9 boys have just won four consecutive league matches, a streak which no side has yet bettered this season.

Lukas Jutkiewicz has scored seven goals in his last six games – an extraordinary return, considering that only six Championship players have hit the seven-goal mark since the start of the season.

The target man has scored in five of his last eight appearances against Derby and is a highly-attractive anytime goalscorer option at 9/4.

Given the potential for Derby to take their eye off the ball in less glamorous encounters – remember, they lost 1-0 at Bolton the Saturday following their previous EFL Cup heroics at Old Trafford – siding with Birmingham is the way to go.


Birmingham to win

Lukasz Jutkiewicz to score anytime


Odds are correct at the time of posting

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