Derby  County vs Cardiff Preview: Desperate Rams need to turn around their form in top of the table clash

Derby  County vs Cardiff Preview: Desperate Rams need to turn around their form in top of the table clash

Fifth place Derby County host high flying Cardiff City in a crucial game for both sides' race to promotion.

Dominic Scott-Bone

It is a massive top of the table clash this Sunday in the Sky Bet Championship as two promotion chasing sides battle it out at Pride Park.

Three points for Derby County may prove vital in their bid for promotion through the play-off places after being left disappointed with a 0-0 draw against bitter rivals Nottingham Forest last weekend.

Cardiff City however came from behind to place further pressure on Sky Bet Championship leaders Wolves with a 3-1 win away at Brentford.

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Form could play a key part 

Derby have been extremely poor both at home and on the road lately. Gary Rowett's side are winless in their last seven games and will be desperate to secure a place in the play-offs.

Cardiff on the other hand have won their previous seven league fixtures and will look to extend that run in order to maintain their 2nd place position which will clinch automatic promotion come the end of the season.

Team news

The Rams' injury woes have not eased this week with manager Gary Rowett only having 10 senior players fit to train on Friday.

Richard Keogh, Tom Lawrence, Ikechi Anya, David Nugent, Cameron Jerome and Martin Olsson all are said to be carrying knocks, Matej Vydra is still out of action with a groin injury.

If Rowett continues to opt for the 4-2-3-1 formation it seems that Jamie Hanson could be set to make his first start of the Sky Bet Championship season alongside Bradley Johnson in the centre of midfield.

The Burton born defender replaced Tom Lawrence in the Rams' Derby day clash with Nottingham Forest to sure up Derby's defence after Tom Huddlestone had been sent off for a second bookable offence.

Huddlestone who had missed just one game throughout the course of this Championship season therefore will miss Derby's next three fixtures. Other defensive midfielders George Thorne and Joe Ledley are sidelined due to calf injuries and are unlikely to be fit for Sunday.

Chris Baird is now available after serving his three match ban and his versatility could be utilised to alleviate Derby's midfield problems.

Despite Aron Gunnarsson and Joe Ralls making progress after their respective ankle and knee injuries, Cardiff boss Neil Warnock has insisted he will not risk either player on Sunday.

Ralls has been influential in Cardiff's bid to move into the top flight with seven goals in 36 appearances but has missed the last two games against Birmingham and Brentford.

Derby County loanee Craig Bryson is ineligible to play against his parent club, however has still yet to return to training since limping off after scoring Cardiff's second in a 3-2 victory versus Birmingham.

Callum Paterson has been in fine form of late. The Scotsman has scored in each of his last three games playing as a central attacking midfielder for the Bluebirds.

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Predicted Line-Ups

Derby (4-1-4-1): Carson, Wisdom, Davies, Keogh, Forsyth, Johnson, Hanson, Palmer, Weimann, Lawrence, Nugent

Cardiff (4-2-3-1): Etheridge, Manga, Morrison, Bamba, Bennett, Grujic, Damour, Mendez-Laing, Paterson, Hoilett, Zohore