Derby v Birmingham preview

Derby boss Nigel Clough may rest Jeff Hendrick for Saturday
evening’s Championship clash with Birmingham at Pride Park.

The 20-year-old has started all but one of the Rams’ 17
Championship games but has struggled to reproduce the level of
performance he showed last season when he won the club’s Young
Player of the Year award.

“We either persevere with him or there is a chance he might come
out and have a little rest. At 20, we could possibly do more damage
leaving him in there,” said Clough. “He had a great first season
but he is struggling a bit this season. Second seasons are tough
for young players like Jeff because everyone knows a bit more about

Clough is set to revert back to 4-4-2 for Saturday evening’s
televised clash, having lined up 4-4-1-1 in the 3-0 defeat to
Crystal Palace last weekend.

If Hendrick drops out, Will Hughes and Craig Bryson would be the
likely partnership in central midfield with Paul Coutts on the
right and Michael Jacobs could keep his place on the left after a
lively display at Selhurst Park.

Clough had hoped Jamie Ward would be available after missing
nine matches with a hamstring injury but the forward is likely to
be overlooked unless he joins in training with the rest of the
squad before the end of the week.

Curtis Davies is back in contention to boost Birmingham after
missing the last two matches with a niggling ankle injury.

Promising winger Robert Hall, meanwhile, arrived on loan from
West Ham late on Thursday afternoon and goes straight into
contention for his Blues bow.

There is further positive news regarding on-loan right-back Paul
Caddis, who returned to full training on Friday having been
sidelined for two months with his shoulder injury. However,
Saturday’s game is expected to come too soon.

Left-back David Murphy underwent a knee operation on Thursday
night which rules him out for the foreseeable future, joining
fellow defender Stephen Carr (knee) on the sidelines.

Midfielder Keith Fahey is expected to remain unavailable having
been granted compassionate leave for an indefinite period.