Behind Enemy Lines

Thursday 4 February 2016 13:00

The Derby Telegraph’s Chris Watson gives his take on the Rams’ season so far, and looks ahead to Saturday’s encounter with Fulham at Craven Cottage.

Derby haven't won in the league since they beat Fulham on Boxing Day - what's gone wrong?

That's a good question and one that's not all that easy to answer. A couple of bad results appear to have dented confidence within the camp and, all of a sudden, you wonder where the next win is coming from, which is a concern for a side hoping to be in contention for promotion. Too many players currently look out of form and the fans are getting restless - perhaps the weight of expectation is having a negative impact?

Do you still expect them to be challenging for promotion come the end of the season?

The fact is they are still in a Play-Off position as it stands and there is undoubtedly plenty of quality in the squad, so all is not lost, clearly. Having said that, if they don't turn their form around soon, a top-two finish will end up out of reach once again. However, there are still plenty of games left at this stage and if they can somehow gain a bit of momentum towards the back end of the campaign, there is still a chance, even if it means going through the Play-Offs.

What did you make of their January business?

Nick Blackman has shown some encouraging signs since arriving from Reading. He's enjoyed a good season in front of goal, though has largely been employed in a wide role so far at Derby. Guinea international Abdoul Camara, signed from French club Angers, has been limited to cameos up to now. He's got pace to burn and Paul Clement will be hoping he can provide a threat from the wing. Marcus Olsson has yet to make his Rams debut after joining from Blackburn Rovers to provide competition for Stephen Warnock at left-back.

Which players have particularly impressed you over the course of the season?

Richard Keogh and Jason Shackell have formed a good partnership at the heart of the defence and done very well, up until this recent wobble. Goalkeeper Scott Carson has proved a solid addition to the side, while midfielder Jacob Butterfield has steadily grown into his new role following his move from Huddersfield Town.

Who in the Fulham team will Derby be wary of?

We all know about the goal threat of Ross McCormack, while Derby fans will have seen good performances against their side in the past from the likes of Moussa Dembélé and Alex Kačaniklić.

How will Clement set his team up on Saturday?

He has generally used a 4-3-3 formation, with a deep lying midfielder, though has tweaked this on occasion, usually to 4-2-3-1. Whether the team's recent struggles will bring about a change remains to be seen. The head coach generally likes his side to build from a solid base, play out from the back and dominate possession. They have, though, been looking a bit toothless in attack of late, so may have to adapt their style in order to create more as an attacking force.

What sort of game are you expecting?

Judging by Derby's recent displays, it could be a bit cagey from them, though I know games involving Fulham this season have tended to feature plenty of goals. The Rams will be looking to start positively, get a foothold in the game and hope that one win can bring the confidence flooding back. From a Fulham perspective, they may well fancy their chances of taking advantage of Derby's faltering form.

What score prediction are you going for?

Something has to give at some point, so I'm going to back the Rams to return to winning ways, with a hard-fought 1-0 victory. Fulham fans will be glad to know my predictions are rarely correct!

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