Derby County –v– Leeds United preview

Chris Brunskill

News for both teams ahead of Saturday's Championship clash.

Leeds United travel to Pride Park to take on 16th place Derby County for Saturday’s Championship clash. A win here could life Leeds into the top ten.

Derby:

Derby manage Nigel Clough will give left-back Gareth Roberts (calf) and midfielder Craig Bryson (knee) late fitness tests before deciding whether or not they’ll play against United.
The duo didn’t feature in Derby’s 4-1 defeat at Leicester last weekend due to injuries picked up during their 1-1 draw with Cardiff.
Clough hopes that at least one of them will be fit in time: "They're coming on slowly and they're 50/50 at the moment with regards to being available to face Leeds.
“We'll take them right to the wire, Saturday morning if necessary, to see if we can get one of them back at least.
“However, if either of them was to be involved it would have to be without risking their fitness. As much as we want them back and out on the pitch, we can't risk them because if they have a setback they could end up missing our entire Christmas programme which would entail something like six matches.”

Forward Jamie Ward has missed the last dozen games with a hamstring injury and he looks to miss out playing for the Rams again this weekend.

Derby have a terrific record against the Yorkshire side and are unbeaten in eight matches in all competitions against Leeds, winning the last seven played.

Leeds:

Currently 11th in the Championship, Leeds are chasing a fourth straight league win in their bid to climb the table and challenge for a top six place.

Leeds forward El-Hadji Diouf missed last week's derby win at Huddersfield with a minor groin strain, but returned to training this week and, knowing United manager Neil Warnock, he is unlikely to feature.
"He told me that last year he had a similar thing and he tried to play with it and he was out for three weeks," said the Elland Road boss.

"He is training at the moment but I'm not sure if I want to risk him at Derby if I'm honest with such a big week coming up after that.

"So we have got to try and be careful, we've got to plan and try to win the game so we'll be looking at that before Saturday."

Ross McCormack made his first start since returning from a long-term ankle injury to play against Huddersfield, setting up Michael Tonge and striking partner Luciano Becchio for a goal each, and Warnock may keep him up front.
McCormack remains positive about Leeds’ promotion chances, saying: "I think you have only got to look at Reading and what they did last season, to go on and win the league from where they were. I think anything can happen in the Championship.”

"In my season at Cardiff when we lost in the Play-Off final, Blackpool came from nowhere and got promoted. So it's definitely possible, it's just a case of keep on doing what we're doing and the points will add up.

"I think that it is just about momentum now, if we can keep going and get to Derby this Saturday and keep playing the way we are playing we will have a chance."

"I don't know what is it but obviously the two players that have come in have given us all a lift. I think that Tatey has been really good at the back, I think it shows how good he has been by keeping Jason Pearce out of the team who I think has been one of our best defenders this season."

Luke Varney is eligible for selection after he completed his three-match ban picked up when he was dismissed for an elbow at Millwall. Jason Pearce and Michael Brown also return from their respective three and one-match suspensions, but look to continue to be benched by Warnock, who says he expects better discipline from his players.

"We've got to try and keep our discipline a little bit better," Warnock told the Yorkshire Evening Post.

"The two sendings off - whilst I don't think they were malicious, we shouldn't be giving referees decisions to make on silly things like that. Pearce was on the halfway line and Varney was on the halfway line. We ended up losing games where we could have got a result.

"The players concerned with the sendings off should set a lesson to all of my players. If you're going to be stupid and put yourself at risk of losing your place, you might not get it back. Brown's the same.

"A stupid booking gets him a one-match ban and he can't get back in. I hope that continues."

With no new injuries or suspensions to worry about, Warnock’s biggest decision lies in whether he should retain West-Brom loanee Jerome Thomas in his starting XI, or start winger Ryan Hall, whose wing-play and crosses against Huddersfield set up Becchio and Norris for a goal each.
Warnock has said that with loan signings Alan Tate and Thomas, United “wouldn't have beaten Palace, Leicester or Huddersfield”
“I'm not saying they were the best players because they weren't,” Warnock continued, “but they brought the best out of the rest of the squad and we needed a lift at that time and with the takeover happening it's given everybody a massive boost.”

In other team-related news, Warnock has revealed that Jamaica international Rudy Austin could return sooner than expected from his broken ankle.
Austin suffered the injury early in November and his suspected return date was in the New Year.
But with Tonge's loan from Stoke set to expire after our League Cup game against Chelsea, Warnock is hopeful Austin can help cover his absence until the Potters midfielder can be re-signed on the 1st of January.

Warnock told the Yorkshire Evening Post: "He's coming along really well and there's an outside chance that he'll be back in time for Tonge going back to Stoke.

"That would be a big bonus and one way or the other he should definitely be with us for the start of January. We aren't going to rush him but at the same time it'll be great to have him back. He's been a big player.

"It's a bonus to be thinking about him at all because I honestly thought he'd be looking at about six months out when the injury first happened. That's how serious we thought it was. But he's doing fine."

About Saturday’s trip to Derby, Warnock is confident, but respectful:
"Wherever we were due to go on Saturday we would be confident," he said.

"Looking from a far I think that Nigel has kept them ticking. They have not given any big shakes but they are always in there and I think he has shown what a shrewd manager he is."

"It's only 10 days ago I was looking to try and keep us out of the bottom three so I don't get carried away either way.”

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