Referee: Paul Tierney
TV: Sky Sports 1
Before the season began this match had been billed as a promotion six-pointer, but for Aston Villa and Derby County the 2016/17 Championship season has not gone to plan.
Derby sit in 14th after collecting four points from their opening three games, and whilst it has not been a disastrous start for new manager Nigel Pearson, their lack of goals is a cause for concern. The Rams, whose front three scored 37 league goals last season, have found the net just once so far.
Darren Wassall got the best out of Tom Ince, Chris Martin, and Johnny Russell last season by giving them licence to roam at the tip of a 4-3-3 formation, but Pearson has made some unpopular changes.
Darren Bent started as the lone striker in Derby’s first two games against Brighton and Barnsley, but their failure to hit the net saw Pearson restore the attacking trio that worked so well together last season. A late goal from defender Craig Forsyth spared their blushes in a 1-0 win at Preston.
The new manager knows performances need to improve quickly if Derby are to avoid yet another season of underachievement. The home win is available at 23/20.
Villa’s stuttering start is perhaps more expected, given that Roberto Di Matteo took charge of a disjointed squad still hurting after the humiliation of the 2015/16 Premier League campaign.
The top priority for the Italian was solidifying a leaky defence; the early signs have been encouraging. Di Matteo signed James Chester and Tommy Elphick from West Brom and Bournemouth respectively, and the new partnership almost secured back-to-back clean sheets in their first games together.
Huddersfield equalised in the midweek round of fixtures with a freak goal in the 86th minute – Pierluigi Gollini’s clearance struck Michael Hefele and looped into the net – to ruin their perfect start. It seems unlikely Derby will rediscover their free-scoring form against these two, making under 2.5 goals at 4/5 a good bet.
A first home win of the season would certainly restore some pride for Rams fans. The last time Villa visited Pride Park they ran out 6-0 winners in 2008, with a Stiliyan Petrov goal from the halfway line helping to hand Derby one of their most humiliating home defeats of the season.
Eight years later and the two clubs are chasing the same dream of returning to the top flight. For either side, defeat would put a serious dent in their ambition. Expect a cautious approach from both managers, making the draw at 9/4 seem likely.
Recommended Bet: draw @ 9/4