With both of these teams flying in their respective divisions, it’s no surprise to see that the television broadcasters have selected this as one of the featured games. Both have been in some splendid form over the course of the last few weeks and all of this makes for the perfect FA Cup clash.
Several months ago, this could have been classed as a drab affair for the neutral – and this was mainly because of Derby’s ‘average’ start to the campaign. Again, the Rams seemed to be struggling in the lower reaches of the table, yet all of that changed when Steve McClaren was appointed to replace Nigel Clough. The former England manager has sparked a mammoth revival at Pride Park and up until a couple of days ago, the Rams were sat in the automatic promotion positions. This came following a terrific spell which saw them drop just two points in a nine match spell – although that unbeaten run came to an end after a 1-0 defeat to Wigan on New Year’s Day. Still, things are looking up for Derby and with McClaren tasting cup success with some of his other clubs, there’s no doubt that he’ll be taking this competition very seriously with his new club.
His opposite number will also be looking to put together a decent run in the competition. While Chelsea are unquestionably still in the title hunt as they sit just two points away from Premier League leaders Arsenal, Jose Mourinho will be desperate to be in contention for as many trophies as possible. The Blues have a sterling record in the FA Cup over the years and following some of their recent results, you’d have to imagine that they’ll be confident of progressing to the next round. The Stamford Bridge outfit have now dropped just two points over their last five top flight games, while they also approach this tie on the back of three successive victories.
As for team news, Derby may have to reshuffle their midfield with Craig Bryson a doubt as he struggles on the treatment table. With the Rams set to launch an assault on the automatic promotion places in the Championship, there are suspicions that Steve McClaren may rest one or two players with Jeff Hendrick thought to be close to a start because of this. There’s no doubt that the Rams’ opponents will tap into their squad rotation policy, although Jose Mourinho already has a whole host of players out through injury. Frank Lampard, Marco van Ginkel and Branislav Ivanovic are part of this group, although there is better news in relation to David Luiz who returns to the reckoning after suspension.
This is another game which we envisage going to a replay. This will be exactly what neither manager wants but with both sides in fantastic form at the moment, our tip is going to be an entertaining 2-2 draw at Pride Park on Sunday afternoon.