Derby County are ready to come back from a 10-day absence as they host Neil Warnock’s Middlesbrough side at Pride Park this afternoon.
The Rams were supposed to head to South Yorkshire last weekend to face Barnsley, but a waterlogged pitch put paid to those plans, meaning that Wayne Rooney’s men have had a longer break than normal.
It does mean though that they have had longer to stew over their most recent result – a humiliating 3-0 drubbing by relegation rivals Rotherham United at the New York Stadium.
County had won their last three league games before that all by one goal to nil, so it was disappointing for their fans to see them fall apart against the Millers.
That result means Wayne Rooney has quite a few dilemmas ahead of naming his team – let’s see what they are.
Giving Colin Kazim-Richards a rest
The veteran striker has started every league match for Derby since November 28, and he now has some competition in the form of Lee Gregory to challenge him for a starting spot.
Gregory found himself out of favour at Stoke City and he won’t have moved to the Rams just to sit on the bench, and with Derby failing to fire at Rotherham last week, now may be the perfect time to give the 32-year-old his chance.
It’s unlikely that Rooney will divert from his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation, so don’t expect to see the two strikers partner each other up from the start anytime soon, but you could expect them to be rotated.
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Finding the right balance in the absence of Bielik
The unfortunate news came out last week that Derby’s Polish midfielder Krystian Bielik had suffered yet another cruciate knee ligament injury, having only just returned from his initial injury in November.
Rooney now needs to find the right partnership in the middle of the park, with Max Bird and Graeme Shinnie starting together in the loss to Rotherham.
Beni Baningime has been acquired on loan from Everton though as competition and he could be thrown in this afternoon to shake things up.
Teden Mengi to start?
Another issue that has to be addressed is the defence. It looked solid before the Rotherham defeat but that result may have have given Rooney enough reason to give Man United loanee Teden Mengi a go at centre-back.
The teenager is highly-rated by Red Devils fans and they will not have loaned him to the Championship just for him to collect splinters on the sidelines, and now could be the chance to partner him up with Matt Clarke.
He could turn out to be a star or Mengi may not end up being ready for regular senior football just yet – but we’ll only find out once he actually steps onto the pitch.