After winning just one point from their opening two games, Derby County need to get back to winning ways on Wednesday night as they face Hull City away from home.
Despite their 4-1 win at Preston North End last weekend, Hull City’s defensive frailties were exposed by QPR as they were soundly beaten at the MKM Stadium on Saturday afternoon, which could be a great source of encouragement for Wayne Rooney’s side who will be desperate to get three points on the board.
But with the absence of Colin Kazim-Richards, after he was stretchered off at London Road at the weekend, this task will be a daunting one against a side who will want to re-establish themselves as a solid Championship team after winning the League One title in May.
And despite bringing in the likes of Curtis Davies, Richard Stearman, Ravel Morrison and Ryan Allsop, the Rams are still desperately short of squad depth, an issue that has only been exacerbated by Kazim-Richards’ injury.
However, Wayne Rooney will need to plough on whilst he waits for further signings and work with what he has. With this, we have selected the Derby County starting lineup we’re expecting to see in East Yorkshire as they come face-to-face with Grant McCann’s side.
The goalkeeping situation is a baffling one at Pride Park – but Kelle Roos is likely to start for the Rams again after taking over from Scottish international David Marshall.
One position they probably didn’t need to improve on this summer was their goalkeeping department and many people would argue their current third-choice keeper is the best they have at their disposal, with summer signing Ryan Allsop taking up the role as Roos’ understudy.
Meanwhile, promising England youth international Lee Buchanan regains his starting place at left-back ahead of Craig Forsyth after returning to training following a thigh injury.
The former missed the Peterborough United clash at the weekend due to a lack of match fitness, but he will be desperate to make his return on Wednesday in what already looks to be a crucial fixture for the Rams.
His return, as one of Wayne Rooney’s shining stars in a dark period at the club, could give the team a huge morale boost.
Experienced centre-backs Curtis Davies and Richard Stearman take their spots as the club’s only two senior centre-back options, with Andre Wisdom yet to sign a new deal in the East Midlands.
Davies managed to get himself on the scoresheet against Huddersfield on the opening day – and those sort of attacking contributions from unexpected sources could potentially save Derby this season if they’re struggling near the bottom.
Meanwhile, Nathan Byrne keeps his place on the right, although the previously Celtic-linked full-back will be hoping to put in a much-improved display from last weekend after disappointing many against Peterborough United.
Rooney may not have much choice other than to start him again, but it could give him the platform and confidence to make amends and this confidence will be key to staying afloat in the division.
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In the middle, Max Bird and Graeme Shinnie have to retain their places as two solid Championship options and they will be just as key to Derby’s defence throughout the season as the likes of Davies and Stearman.
Both will be required to take the game by the scruff of the neck on Wednesday evening and win the midfield battle.
If they can do that, it will give their advanced midfielders and striker the sufficient opportunity to press forward and regularly test what looks like a shaky Tigers defence at this moment in time.
The three behind the striker could be the most fascinating pick of the lot, with captain Tom Lawrence and Ravel Morrison keeping their place.
If the former can replicate his form from the 2019/20 campaign, where he scored ten goals and recorded four assists, he could single-handedly drag the Rams away from relegation danger alongside a dangerous Morrison whose potential we are all fully aware of.
Whether he can fulfil his great potential and replicate his pre-season performances will be just as important as Lawrence stepping up to the plate, although the onus will particularly be on the skipper to lead by example and create a sufficient amount of chances for young striker Jack Stretton, who is in line for his first Championship start after Kazim-Richards’ injury.
The 19-year-old converted a wonderful half-volley from Ravel Morrison’s knock-down at the weekend, which will give Derby fans slightly more confidence he can do a job for the Rams. It’s big pressure on young shoulders, but if he can continue finishing like he did on Saturday afternoon, we could see more goals fly in from the youngster in the near future.
He will be supported by the creative duo and fellow teenager Louie Sibley, who came on as a substitute against Peterborough and gave the Rams something different going forward. Because of his impact and the pure fact he will prevent Wayne Rooney’s side from becoming one-dimensional, he must start alongside Lawrence and Morrison.