The big game of the day in the Championship comes at the City Ground this evening as Nottingham Forest host Leeds United.
Just two places and four points separate the two sides in the race for automatic promotion, so the importance of the fixture is clear to see.
With home advantage, combined with the Whites recent struggles, Forest will really fancy their chances of closing the gap in front of a raucous home support.
However, if they are to win the contribution of midfielder Samba Sow could be key – as our graphic shows.
The powerful 30-year-old only joined the Reds in the summer but he has quickly established himself as a vital member of Sabri Lamouchi’s side, with Forest losing just one of the 16 league games he has played.
His was sorely missed at Birmingham last week as the side slipped to a 2-1 defeat but the club shared an image of him training in the build up to today, meaning he should be available.
And, he will need to be at his best.
Sow’s 63 interceptions, 131 recoveries and 29 clearances prove that he is a very intelligent defensive midfielder, capable of plugging gaps and stopping the opposition exploiting space in the final third – which is where Leeds excel.
Whilst Marcelo Bielsa’s side are a free-flowing team in possession, their intensity and powerful running, particularly from midfield, is often overlooked. They can swamp teams with the way they press and it can be hard to cope with.
Yet, with Sow in the side, Lamouchi will have a strong presence in the middle of the park that will not only help Forest deal with Leeds’ threat but also give the hosts a base to move forward themselves.
An 88.4% pass success rate show the Mali international is also capable in possession and that ability on the ball will be pivotal as Forest look to cause problems in transition.
It will be his job to ensure Tiago Silva gets the ball in dangerous areas to feed the attacking players that Forest know can score goals.
There’s a lot of excitement and tension ahead of the game which will see two of the best in the Championship face off and if Forest are to be successful then they will need another dominating display from the influential Sow who will be vital to executing the game plan Lamouchi wants.
Thoughts? Let us know in the comments below.