East-Midland rivals Leicester City and Derby County meet in the FA Cup fourth round at Pride Park on Friday night.
After dispatching of Everton 2-1 in the previous round, the reigning Premier League champions clash with the Rams in what will be the first East Midlands derby in just under three years. With the Foxes currently struggling in league action, can they progress past their Championship opponents and reach the fifth round?
Coming into the clash on Friday evening, both sides will be looking to go even further in the FA Cup amidst difficult league campaigns so far this time around. Albeit one side has enjoyed the better form recently
Since miraculously lifting the Premier League crown last season, the Foxes have endured a well-documented turgid campaign. The champions of England have shockingly lost half of their league games this season and following a 3-0 defeat to Southampton at Saint Mary’s, they now languish in 15th position, only five points clear of the relegation zone.
As a matter of fact, the Foxes have suffered consecutive 3-0 losses and have only one once in seven league games despite beating Everton 2-1 in round three.
Elsewhere, the Rams seem to have recovered from a terrible start to the season in the Championship. Under the stewardship of ex-Leicester boss Nigel Pearson, Derby only managed to win four games out of their first 15 games in all competitions, scoring a paltry eight goals in the process.
However, since the sacking of Pearson, the team have managed to rack-up 12 victories, including an impressive eight league wins in a row. Despite a difficult period in which County have only won once in four league games, they still sit seventh in the league table, only just outside the play-off places.
Powering past Tony Pulis’ West Bromwich Albion in the last round, Steve McClaren will hope to continue his positive impact on his return to Pride Park with a result against the Foxes.
Derby delight for the Foxes?
Regardless of any current form between the two sides, the omens look more than positive for Claudio Ranieri’s troops as they head to Pride Park. In the last 15 years, the teams have clashed 20 times in various competitions. Only losing four times in that time, the Foxes have accumulated a quite outstanding record, with 11 victories.
In fact, in three of the last five match-ups, City have found the back of the net four times so the Rams will surely be out to avoid another humbling at the hands of their neighbours.
On the other hand, Derby fans will look at the overall record between the Foxes and the Rams for inspiration. In 106 meetings since the first in 1894, County have taken the victory on 46 occasions with the Foxes lagging behind with 33 to their name.
Despite this number of clashes, the two teams have only met in the FA Cup three times. A 3-0 victory in 1894 following a 0-0 stalemate was coupled with a 2-0 victory for the home side in 1909. The Rams then will be feeling optimistic considering their history in the illustrious competition.
Following the early exit of Algeria from the Africa Cup of Nations, key men Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani returned to the East Midlands. Mahrez scored twice in the first game at the tournament so fans will be hoping he returns to the King Power Stadium in similar form. However, their record signing, £30m Slimani sustained a groin injury so may be absent for the trip to Pride Park.
There have also been a few departures from Leicester City in recent days. Luis Hernandez has left for Malaga while midfielder Matty James has agreed a loan deal with Championship outfit Barnsley.
Against Everton in the next round, Nigerian duo Ahmed Musa and Wilfred N’didi impressed, with the former netting a brace so the two could be in line to feature against the Rams.
After signing for Derby County early in the transfer window, ex-Foxes’ striker David Nugent could make an appearance against his former club if he recovers from injury quick enough.
However, Steve McClaren does have various definite returnees to choose from. After serving suspensions, Bradley Johnson and Jacob Butterfield are available for selection again. Finally, Nick Blackman, Ikechi Anya and Cyrus Christie may also all be in contention after returning from injury.
Derby County: Carson; Christie, Keogh, Pearce, Olsson; De Sart, Hughes, Johnson, Ince, Russell; Bent.
Leicester City: Schmeichel; Simpson, Huth, Wasilewski, Chilwell; Mahrez, N’didi, Mendy, Drinkwater, Gray; Vardy.