Championship Preview: Clean Sheet For Forest In East Midlands Derby?6 min read
We have an East Midlands derby in the Championship this weekend, as well as a possible promotion clash in Hull against West Brom.
Nottingham Forest v Derby County
Derby to score Under 0.5 goals
Derby County against Nottingham Forest is one of English football’s unique rivalries.
A clash that is always heated and passionate, yet one fuelled by similarities rather than differences; both clubs achieved historic success under the great Brian Clough.
Derby have finished above Forest in each of the last six seasons, but we could see a reversal of recent trends this term.
The Rams have cut the budget and could be in for a season for transition under Phillip Cocu, while Forest look better equipped to challenge in 2019-20.
Forest need Samba
Relative to their position of fifth-place, Forest are ranking underwhelmingly in terms of shot data.
They are posting on average 1.14 Expected Goals For (xGF) and 1.10 Against (xGA), giving them a Ratio (xGR) of 50.87g> was insistent in the summer that his side were aiming for – and had the quality to achieve – a top-six finish.
A run of three consecutive wins, including a 3-0 triumph at favourites Fulham last time out, certainly vindicates McCann’s positivity.
City are now only three points off the Play-Off places and have midfielders such as Kevin Stewart, Daniel Batty and George Honeyman – who the manager was not shy to start earlier in the campaign – ready to come into their XI if required, which highlights their depth.
West Brom’s cohesive attacks
Last season, West Brom posed a huge goal threat but their attacks looked rather individualistic.
Their game was about clinical finishing from Dwight Gayle, speculative efforts from Jay Rodriguez, direct bursts from Matt Phillips or a moment of magic from Harvey Barnes.
This season, they have the same individual quality with plenty of depth in attacking areas, but the attacks look better co-ordinated with smoother passing sequences.
Sawyers the difference
The summer signing of Romaine Sawyers has been the key to West Brom’s improvement.
The former Brentford playmaker has only acquired a deep-lying midfield role very recently in his career, but it appears to be unlocking a lot more potential.
Sawyers has completed 1044 passes this season – more than any other Championship midfielder – and we can expect him to call the shots on Humberside and link Albion’s moves together.
Hull’s advanced trio
Hull though always carry a goal threat, even when they are on the back foot.
McCann likes to keep his front-three – wide forwards Josh Bowler and Kamil Grosicki plus central forward Jarrod Bowen – high up the pitch throughout.
Those players will happily press an opponent but they rarely track back, because they are wanted in areas in which they can threaten in transition.
That has been key to their winning streak but it can also mean, in the defensive phase, there is a triangular chasm between the full-back, the wide midfielder and the wide forward on either flank.
Nimble operators like Ebere Eze, who starred in QPR’s 3-2 win at Hull last month, can sometimes take advantage of that space and West Brom have the personnel to do likewise.
Phillips and Grady Diangana both have the beating of their opposing full-backs one-on-one, which is something Slaven Bilic may look to play on – and recently, Diangana has added an element of maturity and intelligence to his frenetic running ability.
Matheus Pereira excels at linking play between the lines, as does alternative attacking midfielder Filip Krovinovic; the likes of Kyle Edwards and Hal Robson-Kanu can influence games from the bench, too.
The Betting Angle
It seems likely that this will be an entertaining contest, with both teams posing a direct goal threat – the visitors may have the edge.