Derby County vs Fulham Preview: Who will take the upper hand in the play-off tie?

Derby County play host to Fulham in the first leg of the Championship play-off semi-final.

Derby County vs Fulham Preview: Who will take the upper hand in the play-off tie?
Mitrovic celebrating at Pride Park via Getty Images - Mick Walker - CameraSport

Derby County host Fulham at Pride Park on Friday in the first leg of the Championship play-off semi-finals. 

Fulham do have a slight edge in the heads to head this season. The game at Craven Cottage ended in a 1-1 draw but Fulham did beat Derby at Pride Park back in March.

Two first-half goals from Aleksandar Mitrovic and Ryan Sessegnon was enough for Fulham to see out the victory.

Tom Huddlestone did pull a goal back for the hosts. 

Derby need to be right at it

Derby come into this game in indifferent form winning five in their last ten matches.

They will be boosted however by the fact that they have scored eight times in their last three games, and only conceding three.

Derby also have the league's top goalscorer in Czech Republic international Matej Vydra, who has scored 21 goals this season, as the Rams finished in 6th place in the table. 

Vydra has set Derby record with that goal tally, becoming the player to score the most in a single league season since the club moved to Pride Park back in 1997. He surpassed Chris Martin's total of 20 in the 2013-14 season. 

You have to go all the way back to 1984-85 who has scored more league goals than Vydra, which was Bobby Davison who ended the season with 24 league goals but that was in Division Three, equivalent to League One in modern day speak. 

Boss Gary Rowett spoke on his sides' playoff opposition in his pre-match press conference, saying: "We are at home against Fulham and we have got to attack, and we will attack in numbers and attack to score goals."

Rowett went onto say: "But at the same time you have to be respectful of a team that has Mitrovic, Cairney and Sessegnon.

"As we found in the home game against them this season, we played really well but gave them two chances and they scored two goals."

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Fulham need to pick themselves up after last day disappointment

Fulham come into the play-offs after seeing their 23-game unbeaten run come to an end on the final day at St Andrews. 

The Cottagers were humbled 3-1 by Birmingham City on the final day of the campaign.

The stats are also not in Fulham's favour as they have not won any of their six play-off fixtures including last season's 2-1 aggregate loss to Reading and Derby have only lost two of their last 12 home games against the Cottagers, but one of those did come this season. 

One stat that is in Fulham's favour is that the side that finished third has won the play-offs in their current format, 10 times, more than other position.

Whilst Derby have the league's top scorer, Fulham have one striker who is in incredible form. That is the Serb Aleksandar Mitrovic.

Since making his debut no other Championship player has scored more than him, that total being 12.

Fulham also have triple award winner Ryan Sessegnon in their ranks, who is the club's top scorer this season with 15 goals to his name.

Boss Slavisa Jokanovic insists that the players are in the right frame of mind despite the final day defeat.

He said in his pre-match press conference: "A few days are behind us and I think my team are completely ready, with a great attitude on the training ground, I’ve observed them and they are ready for the Play-Off games."

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Team News

The only injury concern for the Rams is defender Marcus Ollson, who is in doubt for the game with a knee injury. 

Jokanovic has a full-strength squad to choose from at Pride Park, after left-back Matt Targett recovered from illness and Sheyi Ojo is back from injury.

There may also be a start for Floyd Ayite after he returned from a hamstring problem.

Predicted Line-up 

Derby County: Carson, Keogh, Davies, Pearce, Wisdom, Huddlestone, Johnson, Forsyth, Vydra, Jerome, Weimann

Fulham: Bettinelli, Fredericks, Odoi, Ream, Targett, McDonald, Cairney, Johansen, Piazon, Mitrovic, Sessegnon