Derby v Blackburn - Saturday 15:00
There’s more than a hint of confirmation bias in the general perception of Blackburn right now. The Lancashire club have been cast as no-hopers from the moment they appointed Owen Coyle and a 4-1 defeat at home to Norwich on the opening day was the final straw for many. They are dreadful supposedly, and yet they find themselves only one point behind Derby.
In truth, they have been dreadful for the most part but there’s been definite improvement in recent weeks and the performance of the front four in the 4-2 win against Rotherham last weekend gives real cause for optimism. Old-timers Danny Graham and Anthony Stokes have been ditched, Sam Gallagher and Marvin Emnes bring real vibrancy.
Making a case for Blackburn to win at the iPro isn’t easy but the rationale doesn’t have to be totally convincing at 11/2. Derby have scored only twice in 12 hours and their shot ratio is just 44 per cent. Yes, the fixture list has been top-heavy but the attacking numbers - just 0.72 expected goals per game - make depressing reading for Nigel Pearson.
The schedule gets easier now for the Rams. Next week, they go to Cardiff. But is that really a good thing given general concerns about their mental fragility? Pearson is sounding more like a counsellor than a football manager of late. Rovers won’t be defensive, they will approach this game with freedom and might play straight into Derby’s hands. But what if they score the first goal?