Championship Preview: Derby & Nottingham Forest meet in Midlands clash

The two sides are both in the hunt for a play-off spot and will go head-to-head at Pride Park, with top-six rivals Leicester and Middlesbrough also squaring off
One of the fiercest derby clashes in English football can be found in the Championship this weekend, as Nottingham Forest travel to Pride Park to tackle East Midlands rivals Derby County.

As well as passion in the stands, games between the Rams and the Reds are often packed with incident, although the last six at Pride Park have featured just 10 goals.

Nigel Clough played in the derby for Forest, under dad Brian, but has led Derby into the game as manager since 2009.

"It is a very emotional occasion," he told reporters. "This is the biggest game of the season for the supporters and we feel that all the way through the club.

Crystal Palace
Sheff Wed
N Forest (13.00)
Bristol City
Hull City
Cardiff (17.20)

"But irrespective of the opposition, we need the three points to keep us in the top half of the Championship and to keep us in touch.

"When you go into derby games, you need to keep a calm head at times, which we have had to, especially at Forest.

"Resilience is also important, as we saw against them at Pride Park last season when we kept going right to the end and got a 94th-minute winner.

"You need all those things, and more, in these sorts of games."

It will be Alex McLeish's first taste of the derby atmosphere, and he has been commanded to win at all costs by club owner Fawaz Al Hasawi with the Rams having won the last three between the sides.

"What do I know about these games? I know that this is very important," the Kuwaiti told The Nottingham Post.

"I know they won in the first game this season, so we would like to pay them back for that.

"We want to win this game. I know it is important for the fans. I will be here for it and I hope we get the right result.

"I respect Derby as a team. If we lose, that is football but I can promise that we are going to do everything in our power to win."

McLeish added: "I have been involved in a few that people say there is nothing like. I have experienced the Old Firm derby.

"But I know how important these derby games are. I know what it means to the fans, when it comes to the bragging rights and everything else.

"It would be an insult to say that the Old Firm is the biggest derby in the world, because every derby, to each club's respective fans, is the biggest to them. We know how important it is."

Promotion-chasing Hull City will look to bounce back from their humiliating defeat to Sheffield Wednesday last weekend when they take on Peterborough at London Road.

The Tigers required an extra-time winner to beat Leyton Orient in their FA Cup third-round replay in midweek after Eldin Jakupovic's nightmare display, but lost 3-1 to the Owls last Friday.
As Derby face their local rivals Nottingham Forest on Saturday, many eyes will be on the 17-year-old midfield sensation for the Rams. Manchester City are close to sealing a deal for Hughes, who will be keen to impress in the east Midlands derby.
The £2.6 million-rated German has failed to fire consistently for the Tigers so far, but could be called upon to prove his worth in Sone Aluko's absence. Proschwitz has scored two in the club's recent FA Cup clashes with Leyton Orient, including a screamer in the replay, suggesting he could be ready to step up.
Middlesbrough's captain returned to the side over the festive period after spending four months sidelined with a knee injury. Now returning to full fitness, whether playing in defence or midfield, the Australia international will be key to maintaining Boro's promotion push.

Steve Bruce was dealt a number of blows ahead of the tie, with Sone Aluko picking up an Achilles knock that could keep him out for the next two months, while Ahmed Elmohamady was recalled from his loan by Sunderland, and the former Wigan boss has challenged the fringe members of his attack to step up.

"There's a space in the side to fill now and the emphasis has to be on them to go and grab it," Bruce told The Hull Daily Mail.

"Nick [Proschwitz]'s got a wonder goal which should give him a bit of confidence. Unfortunately for Jay [Simpson], though, he's doing everything but put the ball in the back of the net at the minute.

"Some of his movement was excellent and if he had taken his chance when he'd run all the way through the Leyton Orient defence, you'd have been looking at goal of the season."

The Posh look set to lose their star playmaker George Boyd either in January or the summer, with his contract due to expire.

Owner Daragh MacAnthony claimed to have rejected a "derisory" bid for Boyd in midweek, while manager Darren Ferguson believes he will go down as one of the club's greatest ever players.

He told reporters: “One of the great things about George is that no matter what speculation surrounds him he just carries on in the same way. He is not one to let things affect him and that’s a great credit to him.

“He will train well until he leaves and he will give everything when he plays right up until the day he leaves.

"I know there is a lot of talk about him leaving in January, but whatever happens with George will happen and I have no doubts that it will not affect his standing at the club.

“George must be one of the club’s greatest players and he deserves everyone’s, that’s from within the club and from the fans, gratitude.”

"Having a good crowd is really important to the players and also to the fans who come to our games, because it improves the atmosphere dramatically."

The Friday night game sees Middlesbrough travel to Leicester in a battle between two sides firmly in the race for promotion.

Nigel Pearson's side have hit form recently, winning their last three, and he will host the side he captained during his playing days - who have lost their last two.

Veteran left-back Paul Konchesky has hailed the team spirit at the King Power Stadium, and believes that the morale, coupled with the squad's technical ability, is a good recipe for promotion.

The 31-year-old told the Leicester Mercury: "We have been a close unit all season but, when you are winning, you get closer and closer. At the moment, it is hard to put anything between us. We stick together and, hopefully, we can keep that going.

"There are a great bunch of lads here. It is a young squad and they all want to learn and do well. That is a good thing in football.

"The quality is also second to none. We have one of the best squads in the league and, hopefully, that will be proven come May.

"There is a buzz around the place. While things are going well it is buzzing. Hopefully, the good times will keep coming.

"We know if we do win we move into the top two, it will put pressure on the teams on Saturday. I would rather be there than looking up. Hopefully, we will achieve that."

Chris Wood has made an explosive start to life at Leicester. The New Zealand international scored 11 goals in 19 appearances for Millwall in a loan spell earlier this season, but has already hit six in his first three games for Leicester since moving from West Brom for £1.5 million.

The 21-year-old is wary of facing the Teesside club, especially due to the stuttering run they have been on recently.

“It’s going to be a tough game with them losing on Saturday. They will be looking to come back fighting and be twice as strong,” said Wood.

“But everyone is upbeat. We have to make sure we prepare right during the week and that we’re ready for that game.

“It’s been a positive start for me, but it’s only a start. We’ve got a long way to go in the season, hopefully a lot more goals to come and hopefully a lot more wins to come too.”

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