Commons the inspiration for in-form Derby
Two of the most in-form teams in the Championship come together at Pride Park as Derby County host Portsmouth on Saturday tea-time.
Nigel Clough's Derby team head into the match in a rich vein of form, particularly at home. The Rams have won five of their last seven matches and their last four at Pride Park.
Clough has so far distanced himself and his team from any talk of the play-offs, instead concentrating on the task in hand, defeating on-song Pompey. "With the quality they have and the form they are in, it could be our sternest test yet. When you look at Portsmouth on paper - certainly that first 11 and a few subs - it is Premiership quality."
The table doesn't lie though and County sit on the periphery of the play-offs in seventh place. The turbulence that the club endured in the preceding years before Clough's arrival, and for some months after, seems to have calmed and Pride Park is a far happier place now. Derby's loyal fans have witnessed 18 home goals so far this term, more than any other set of fans.
Pompey travel up to the Midlands from the south coast buoyed by their recent resurgence in league form. After a woeful start to life in the Championship, Steve Cotterill has managed not only to steady the ship but to take the wheel and sail at a rate of knots up the table.
Defeat of their promotion rivals Nottingham Forest at Fratton Park last week made it seven matches unbeaten and like their hosts, have secured four successive wins.Another three Points against Derby would be their fifth consecutive victory, a feat last achieved in 2002, when they went on to win promotion.
Portsmouth have the edge in recent history with three wins out of the last four against the Rams and are priced at 21/10 to inflict a defeat once again.
In the longer term though Derby have only suffered home defeats to Portsmouth on two occasions in the last 42 years and at 11/8 are the favourites going into the game.
Derby's 4-1 thumping of Watford last time out saw two goals for Tomasz Cywka and the Polish star priced at 7/1 to open the scoring and 10/1 to repeat his feat of a week ago and notch two goals or more.
Although he wasn't on the scoresheet against Watford, one man worth a look when it comes to the goalscoring betting is the Scottish international Kris Commons. The left sided player is usually at the hub of any creative Derby play, hitting the back of the net seven times already this campaign. Commons can be backed at 5/1 to open the scoring and might be favoured before his team mates Shefki Kuqi (6/1), Chris Porter (13/2) and Paul Green (11/1).
Pompey may have been relegated to the Championship last season but their forward line has remained first class. Dave Kitson (7/1 First Scorer) and Liam Lawrence (10/1) have a wealth of Premier League experience and one time England star David Nugent (7/1) is still a cut above at this level.
Lawrence was the match winner against Forest last weekend and is the club's top scorer thus far. His ability to create as well as find the target have made him a big hit with Pompey fans. If he can score another winner at Pride Park, he can be backed at 10/1.
The goal scoring exploits of both teams means that this encounter promises to be a real goal-fest, therefore I'm going to predict a 0-0 draw.
Only joking, if I were to bet on this game I would be looking at the Total Match Goals Over/Under Market where I feel that over 3.5 at 2/1 could be a winner.