Friday night sees the first Dundee Derby of the season as Dundee make the short walk down the road to face Dundee United at Tannadice in the Ladbrokes Championship.
Story Behind the Game
United go into the game top of the table with a 100% record after winning their opening three league games against Inverness CT, Partick Thistle and Dunfermline Athletic.
Lawrence Shankland has been at the heart of the Terrors’ good early season form, scoring seven goals including all four in the 4-1 victory against Inverness on the opening day.
Dundee, on the other hand, have had a decent if uninspiring start to their campaign following relegation. They also remain unbeaten after three games but two of those have been draws against Caley and Dunfermline, sides United defeated comfortably.
They did, however, beat Ayr United at Dens Park and took Premiership side Aberdeen to extra-time in the Betfred Cup, so will feel they have every chance of taking something from the game on Friday.
The two sides haven’t met in the league since the 2015/16 season in the top flight when Dundee won 2-1 at Dens to all but confirm their neighbours’ relegation to the Championship. Dundee also won the last clash between the two, also winning 2-1, to knock United out of the Betfred Cup two seasons ago.
A win for the hosts would open up a seven-point gap which is a huge incentive for Robbie Neilson’s men, even at this early stage in the season. It’s way too early to call it a title decider but these derbies will play a massive part in deciding whether the title heads to either side of Tannadice Street, or elsewhere in the league.
The Tangerines have no new injury worries with centre-back Mark Connolly expected to return to the squad after missing last weekend’s 2-0 win at East End Park. Calum Butcher slotted into defence well in that game however and may stay there on Friday, with Connolly possibly having to settle for a place on the bench.
Dundee also has a fully fit squad ahead of the game, leaving manager James McPake with a positive headache in terms of his starting line-up.
Josh McPake came off the bench to make his debut last Saturday after joining on loan from Rangers and will be pushing for a starting place on Friday while one of Andrew Nelson, Danny Johnson and Kane Hemmings will have to contend with a place on the bench.
Dundee United: Siegrist; Smith, Connolly, Reynolds, Robson; McMullan, Butcher, Stanton, Clark; Shankland, Appere
Dundee: Hamilton; Kerr, McGhee, Forster, Marshall; McGowan, Robertson, Ness, McDaid; Hemmings, Johnson
Lawrence Shankland vs Jordon Forster
After scoring 34 goals in 41 games for Ayr last season, Shankland has continued that form into his United career, with nine goals in seven appearances in all competitions this season. The fact that he scores different types of goals makes him a nightmare to defend against and Dundee will have to be ready for that. Forster had a nightmare start to the season, with his mistake allowing Dunfermline to take the lead on the opening day and the Pars ran him ragged all night. He has however helped the Dee to keep clean sheets in the two games since and will have to be on his game to deny Shankland yet another goal.
Calum Butcher vs Finlay Robertson
Robertson may only be 16-years old but he’s already a fans favourite at Dens due to his composure on the ball in midfield. The derby will be the biggest game he’ll have faced in his career so far but it isn’t likely that the occasion will get to him. If Butcher is moved back into midfield as expected by Neilson then he’ll be charged with stopping the Dundee youngster from creating for the front two. Butcher has the experience and is renowned for his tough tackling in midfield so may well try to put his stamp on Robertson early in the game. Whoever gets on top in midfield first will be crucial to their side’s chances of picking up three points.
What the Managers Have Said
Robbie Neilson, Dundee United: “I enjoy the derby games, I think they’re great and it’s all the build-up around about it. You can talk tactics and all that but ultimately it’s the team that turns up on the day that’s going to win it. It doesn’t matter what your form is going into it. Win, lose or draw the week before, you have to make sure you’re at it in the first 10/15 minutes and then, the majority of the time it’s settled by one goal.
“It would be great (to go seven points clear) but we are only three games in. The longer you can keep your winning run going the better.
“Realistically though, teams are going to lose at some point and this division is very difficult. The longer you keep winning and the more runs you can go on, you give yourself a good chance of going up.
“We do look at other teams’ results when we come in after a game but if you can get into a situation where you are out in front then that puts pressure on the other sides.
“Going into the game on Friday, it’s a derby and we have to win it. If we do that, it puts pressure on the teams on Saturday who have to win. From our perspective, it’s great to be ahead and we want to continue on that path.”
James McPake, Dundee: “We need to stop Dundee United. That’s what we need to do. They are a good side with decent players in their team so if we go down there and think it is all about stopping him (Shankland), we would be really foolish and our game plan would be completely wrong. We need to stop the chances getting to him, first and foremost and then create our own opportunities.
“Look, we will worry about Dundee, how we can affect the game and how we can affect them as a team, not about individuals. When we played Aberdeen, we didn’t try to stop Sam Cosgrove.”
“We will go down there and have our own game plan. The work has started on that.
“We have strikers that will be worrying them and every other team in the league every bit as much as their strikers – I fully believe that with Kane Hemmings, Andrew Nelson and Danny Johnson. I will back my front three to worry other teams.
“We have had a good start to the season and they have had a good start to the season but a derby is a derby and let’s just see what comes on Friday night.”