FORM: Didn’t have the best of times in April, suffering three straight defeats, including to struggling Burton Albion, but eventually managed to put on the afterburners and picked up two wins in their final three league games. They come into the match off the back of a thumping 4-1 victory over the eventually relegated Barnsley. Cameron Jerome, Matej Vydra, David Nugent & Tom Lawrence with the goals.
FORMATION: Played with a 3-4-3 last time out and I can see them sticking with it this time, packing the defensive line to stop our wide players being effective and also providing help for the threat of Mitrovic by giving him an extra central defender to deal with.
DANGERMAN: Tom Lawrence – I could very easily have picked Cameron Jerome who seems to have hit a bit of form recently. I could have just as easily picked Matej Vydra who’s the league’s top scorer this year. I SHOULD have gone with Chris Baird (due to the whole ex-player thing, but I’ve been pretty liberal with that rule recently). WATCH THIS MAN. He may go quiet for long spells, but if you drop your guard for the blink of an eye he’ll be away. Also, watch out for his long shots. You won’t see them coming, but they are always an option for him.
BATTLE TO WATCH: Tom Lawrence v Our Left Back – As I said last week, I wasn’t totally convinced that Matt Targett was fully fit heading into the Birmingham game & I’ll maintain that view heading into this one. Birmingham’s first goal last week came from their right-hand side and the same could easily happen again. I personally wouldn’t take the risk and simply push Ream or Odoi out there and ask Kalas to fill in at CB.
HEAD TO HEAD:
- Fulham and Derby County have met 61 times in all competitions – Fulham have won 19, Derby have won 22 and there have been 20 draws.
- Fulham have won only 1 of their last 6 games against Derby, but it was the most recent – the 2-1 victory at Pride Park in March was just 69 days before Friday’s play-off semi-final.
- Both teams have scored in each of the last 5 meetings between the clubs, and in 10 of the last 13.
- Derby have scored 14 goals in their last 5 games against Fulham at Pride Park, winning 3 and drawing 1 in the process.
- Fulham have lost all 3 of their previous away play-off semi-finals by a 1-0 margin – at Bristol Rovers in 1989, at Grimsby in 1998 and at Reading in 2017.
- Derby have won only 1 of their last 4 home play-off semi-finals – their most recent ended in a 3-0 first leg defeat to Hull in 2016. Cyrus Christie was in the Derby side that day.
OPPOSITION VIEW: @DWaltonOfficial
What’s gone right for Derby this year? I think it’s Gary Rowett’s man management! We’ve brought in players like Curtis Davies and Tom Huddlestone who have been solid and Gary’s certainly got the best out of Mateja Vydra!
What’s gone wrong? I think the most concerning aspect of the season has been our usual blip after Christmas but we’ve snuck into the play off’s when I think most of our fans thought it was out of reach!
Prediction? I can see Derby winning 2-0 at home and losing at the cottage but still going through to the final!
MATT’S PREDICTION: This is a tough one. I said on the post-Birmingham podcast that Derby were the team I would have preferred to face over two legs, but they are still a very decent side who have hit form at just the right time. I think the Birmingham result will still hang over us after the first leg. It’s then going to be up to us to pull something out of the bag back at The Cottage.
Derby 2 – 1 Fulham
Fulham 1 – 0 Derby. Fulham win on penalties (yes, you read that right).