As the halfway point creeps ever closer, Brighton are in pole position at the summit of the Championship. Thus far this season, Brighton have made the ‘hardest European league’ look moderately easy, with them 19 games unbeaten, but as they put up their unblemished record against Derby, they approach one of their toughest points of the season. The visit to Derby is followed by a trip to QPR on Tuesday, quickly followed by a home tie against Middlesbrough, before finishing the first half of the season with a tricky trip to Brentford on Boxing Day. On to Saturday’s game at the iPro Stadium, where Derby will host the unbeaten Seagulls in a clash which will pit the 2 form teams of the division against each other.
Derby have only lost twice this season, the first back in August to Leeds, and the other last month at arch rivals Nott’m Forest. After a slow start to the season, with them drawing their first 4 games and not winning until the 6th, they have been a force in the division. Since their first defeat back in August, they have won 10 of their last 14 games, and have scored 22 goals in the process, most of them coming from top scorer Chris Martin who has 8 so far this season. A cluster of 4 players are locked on being second-highest scorers; Tom Ince, Andreas Weimann, Johnny Russell and Jacob Butterfield, who all have 3. Scott Carson will miss the game due to a back injury, while long term absentee Craig Bryson will also miss out as he still recovers from a knee ligament injury.
Brighton will play their first game being the new holders of the longest unbeaten Championship record (20), and will hope to extend that run. Brighton won last time out at home to Charlton in a thrilling game, in where the Albion came from 2-0 down to win 3-2, including a first goal for James Wilson. Long-term absentees Sam Baldock, Gaetan Bong, Kazenga LuaLua and Liam Rosenior won’t feature until at least the New Year. Inigo Calderon will be assessed ahead of the game after picking up a knock in the win over Charlton. Bobby Zamora will make his first appearance against Derby since scoring the winning play-off final goal for QPR against Derby back in May 2014. Tomer Hemed broke his 10-game goal drought after scoring last weekend, and will hope that he can now stay on the goal-scoring trail after netting his 6th of the season, while Zamora bagged his 5th last weekend too.
The H-2-H record makes for interesting reading, with Derby winning 10 of the 19 games played between the 2 clubs, Brighton coming out on top 6 times and a draw occurring 3 times. Last season Derby beat Brighton 3-0 at the iPro in December, while Brighton won the return fixture back in February 2-0. Derby did a clean sweep of Brighton in the 2013/14 season winning 4 times, including in the play-offs. The last win at the iPro for Brighton was in their first season back in the Championship back in November of 2011 (1-0). Based on these stats, it seems more likely a Derby win will occur.
Bruno, Greer, Dunk, Calderon;
Murphy, Kayal, Stephens, March;
Derby 2-1 Brighton