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    Joe Jones
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    Joe Jones Tip
    Twitter: twitter JoeJones1862

    Championship Preview: Can Nottingham Forest deliver another blow to Derby County promotion hopes?

    The East Midlands derby is one of the most fiercely contested fixtures in the English calendar, featuring two bitter rivals for whom victory and bragging right are paramount.

    How will Sunday's Championship clash between Nottingham Forest and Derby County pan out? Football Manics takes a closer look in this preview.

    Head to head

    Forest and Derby go back a long way, with the first meeting coming on 1 October 1892 in the Football League First Division. On that occasion, Forest ran out 3-2 winners at Derby's Racecourse Ground.

    The two sides have met 101 times in competitive action, with Forest boasting 39 wins to Derby's 38, while 24 games have ended as draws.

    Forest are unbeaten in their last four home league meetings with Derby, and there has not been a goalless draw in this league fixture at the City Ground in 31 meetings since April 1906.

    In addition, Forest boss Aitor Karanka has won four of his last five Championship meetings with Derby, drawing the other.

    Standings and form

    The Reds have had a tough time of things this season but things have picked up recently and they come into the game five unbeaten, with a win against Birmingham City and a draw against Norwich City this week setting them up for the clash on Trentside as they head into the game 15th in the table.

    Derby, on the other hand, have suffered a blip in form which has dented their promotion ambitions. A winless run of six games - only Sunderland are on a longer goalless run in the league - has seen them fall away from the automatic promotion picture and they currently sit fifth in the standings.

    Team news

    Forest striker Tomlin missed the midweek goalless draw at Norwich through a combination of fatigue and a calf problem but Karanka hopes to have him back for the derby, although the manager could also opt to bring Barrie McKay back into the starting line-up.

    Eric Lichaj was available at Carrow Road after suspension, but was overlooked after Forest collected seven points during his three-match ban, and he may miss out on a place in the squad once more on Sunday.

    Derby midfielder Joe Ledley faces a month on the sidelines with the calf injury that forced him off early on in Tuesday's 1-1 draw with Queens Park Rangers, while Tom Huddlestone is a doubt after suffering a dead leg at Loftus Road.

    Rams boss Gary Rowett is also waiting on the fitness of strikers David Nugent and Cameron Jerome, while George Thorne and Sam Winnall remain out and Chris Baird will serve the final game of his three-match ban.

    Prediction

    Form goes out the window when it comes to derbies and in terms of a prediction, things get even more complicated with the fact that Forest, despite being 10 places below Derby in the table, are in much better form than their A52 rivals.

    Derby were looking like they would be in contention for automatic promotion in the latter stages of the season but with things getting ever tighter in the upper echelons of the table, a winless run like the one they're experiencing is unlikely to be forgiven by the machinations of the league.

    Forest, meanwhile, were nervously looking over their shoulders not long ago but they're now 14 points clear of the bottom three and in a much more comfortable position, so they will be more relaxed as they seek to deal another blow to their rivals' promotion hopes.

    With the vociferous backing of the City Ground behind them, I fancy Forest to come up trumps and secure victory and bragging rights against the Rams.

    Score prediction: Forest 2-0 Derby

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