Derby County manager Wayne Rooney has revealed there won’t be a special plan to combat Aleksandar Mitrovic in his side’s clash against Fulham tonight, speaking ahead of this match to Derbyshire Live.
The Serbian international has been in scintillating form so far this season, scoring 21 goals in 18 league appearances and playing a huge part in making his side the most formidable attacking team in the second tier.
Only scoring three goals in the Premier League last term, he has vastly benefitted from the club’s managerial change over the summer, enduring a ‘strained’ relationship with ex-boss Scott Parker but thriving under current manager Marco Silva as the Cottagers currently sit at the top of the Championship.
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The 27-year-old has netted in each of his last seven matches and scored in all but four of his 18 second-tier displays going into tonight’s clash with the Rams.
After a solid defensive start to their 2021/22 season, Rooney’s side have been leaky at the back in recent games, failing to keep a clean sheet in their last six games and will be consigned to relegation early on next year if they fail to address this issue.
With this and the two side’s contrasting league positions, a carefully-formed plan to deal with main man Mitrovic would have been expected to nullify his threat and give the East Midlands side the best possible chance of winning.
But Rooney remains unfazed by the 27-year-old and believes the likes of Curtis Davies and Phil Jagielka have enough know-how to cope, saying: “It is a good question (on how to deal with Mitrovic).
“It is not going to be any special treatment, we have to just work together, make sure as midfield players we are screening, we are shuffling and being aggressive to get to the ball.
“The two centre backs are experienced enough. They have played against players of his quality before, so they have to use all their experience especially when the ball goes out wide because he is a big threat when it comes in the box.”
Although it may seem like madness to not give Mitrovic any ‘special treatment’ considering how well he’s playing for the Cottagers at the moment, they also have other attacking threats the Rams will need to keep an eye on.
The likes of Neeskens Kebano, Harry Wilson, Fabio Carvalho and Bobby Decordova-Reid will also give Derby plenty of headaches in defence and this is why they will need to be switched on at all times if they want to get anything out of this match at Pride Park, even as hosts.
Looking back, the most dangerous thing for Rooney’s men tonight is the fact their opponents seem to have had their blip already this term, failing to be clinical enough against Reading and Leeds United in September but rectifying that and being in impressive attacking form ever since.
The key to Derby winning a point or three tonight will be striking the right balance between trying to outscore their opponents and remaining solid in defence.
They have shown they can do both after defending well in the early stages of the season and attacking with intent in recent games, most notably against Bournemouth at the weekend against a side that has been reasonably solid before then, but the two need to combine if they want to get a result from this upcoming clash.