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5 Reasons Why Arsenal Can Win the League

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Nicolas Pepe Arsenal

The last time Arsenal won the Premier League, Manchester City wasn’t even a big club. It’s been donkey’s years and the fans are growing tired. This summer saw the Gunners’ hierarchy finally put their money where their mouth was. Now for the first time in a long time, Arsenal look set to challenge for the Premier League title. Let’s discuss why.

Here are five reasons why Arsenal can win the league.

#5 Youth Prospects

There’s been an evident changing of the guard at the Emirates this year. Freddie Ljungberg’s promotion to assistant manager has shown Emery’s faith in playing youth prospects this season. And why wouldn’t he, the Gunners have some of the best upcoming youngsters in England. Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock and Emile Smith-Rowe are all in contention to start for the first team, not because of potential, but productivity. These prospects have given Emery a new dimension this season, as their hunger is there for all to see.

#4 Unai Emery’s second season

At the top level of football, not many managers get a lot of time to fully implement their style at a football club. If results don’t correspond, a coach can often be forced to change his philosophy or face the sack. For Unai Emery, he has a grace period of two years at Arsenal, with the higher-ups giving him time to build his squad and implement a philosophy.

Last season, we saw slight improvements from the old regime, but ultimately UCL qualification wasn’t achieved. This season, Emery has been able to change training regimes and breed a tactical identity at the Emirates, meaning there’s no excuse for no improvement this campaign.

 #3 Returning Injuries

They’ll be like a new signing,” is something Arsène Wenger used to say in relation to every injury the club had. But in this scenario, his words couldn’t hold more truth. By the end of October, the Gunners will be welcoming back Rob Holding and Hector Bellerín. These are two players that missed the majority of last season through a knee injury and crucial ligament rupture respectively. Both of these defenders are first-team picks for Emery, giving him the strength in depth a top-four challenging team needs.

#2 Improved Defence

It’s been evident for close to a decade that Arsenal has needed defensive reinforcements. This summer, the Arsenal higher-ups FINALLY addressed that deficiency. On Deadline Day, the Gunners signed one of the league’s most experienced defenders, David Luiz, a player who is a significant upgrade on the error-prone Shkodran Mustafi. On top of that, they signed one of the UK’s most promising left-backs in Kieran Tierney. The Gunners conceded 51 goals last season, the signing of these two players will significantly reduce that embarrassing total.

#1 Nicolas Pepe

Throughout last season, a whole host of clubs kept tabs on the exciting Nicolas Pepe. He was one of Europe’s most wanted players and for the first time in a long time, Arsenal has pulled off a real coup in the transfer market! Last season, the Ivorian scored 22 goals and provided 11 assists in 38 Ligue 1 appearances. That’s a strike rate that made him one of Europe’s most productive attackers.

The 24-year-old may take some time to adjust to the pace of the Premier League but once he gets going, he’ll form a formidable front three with Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang.

How Paulo Dybala Could Drastically Improve Manchester United

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Paulo Dybala
Paulo Dybala

Manchester United and Juventus have agreed on a swap deal in principle involving Paulo Dybala and Romelu Lukaku according to sources in Italy.

Dybala wants to meet with new head coach Maurizio Sarri before making any decisions about his future as the attacker is keen to stay at Turin.

If the Argentine player does decide to move to Old Trafford, United fans can expect him to bring in something new and different.

Manchester United had a sub-par 2018\2019 season and are looking to strengthen their squad this summer, having already signed Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James the Reds still need more new faces and Dybala would be perfect for that.

With 78 goals and 30 assists in 182 appearances, his quality is underlined.
Dybala’s possesses a skill set that would help United in an area where they have been lacking quality. That lack of quality was on display in United’s recent pre-season 1-0 win against Kristiansund as they found it difficult to get past the Kristiansund men who wanted to sit back and defend for 90 minutes. When facing opponents that play in that manner United have lacked the spark to unlock and dominate the final third.

The Red Devils haven’t had a natural playmaker in a while and when they did, the players were pushed wide very often. Shinji Kagawa, Juan Mata, and Angel Di Maria were all used in that manner. Jesse Lingard has been the man to operate behind the striker in recent years but isnt’t exactly a player Solskjaer would look to for a creative spark when needed.

Solskjaer could also look to play Dybala up top alongside Marcus Rashford in a 4-4-2 formation but that would mean Paul Pogba wouldn’t be as effective as he isn’t known to fare well in the sort of midfield role in a 4-4-2.

It would be exciting to see ‘La Joya’ in the Premier League playing every weekend and he is a player with a lot of technique that is easy on the eyes.
The swap deal would favor both clubs as both players would be improvements on the options the clubs currently have.

Why Liverpool Must Approach the Second Leg Against Bayern Munich With Caution

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Liverpool vs Bayern Munich
Liverpool vs Bayern Munich

Last Tuesday, two heavyweight contenders for the UEFA Champions League locked horns. In perhaps the most mouth-watering tie of the knockout stage, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool welcomed Niko Kovač’s under-fire Bayern Munich team to a ruckus Anfield.

With all the attacking power on display, the two teams gave us a tactical 0-0 first leg. In the second leg, Liverpool will have the advantage of the away goal rule but must still operate with caution.

Here’s why Liverpool must adopt a pragmatic approach against Bayern at the Allianz Arena.

At Anfield, the 5-time European Champions put in a resolute and cautious performance to secure a precious away clean sheet. They showed Liverpool huge amounts of respect in how they deployed 10 men behind the ball and only looked to counter-attack.

That’s a testament to how far the Reds have come under Jurgen Klopp, as they were even billed as the favourites in the build-up to this tie. At the Allianz Arena, Liverpool must return the favour in terms of cautiousness.

Counter Attack Mentality

Since Cristiano Ronaldo swapped the sunsets of Madrid for the stunning skyline of Turin, Real Madrid’s counter-attacking force has not been the same. This, therefore, establishes Liverpool as the best counter-attacking team on the planet. The pace of Sadio Mané and Mohammad Salah fused with the positional intelligence of Roberto Firmino is a frightening thought for any defence, including Bayern Munich.

The Reds must seek to hit Bayern on the counter-attack, as the Germans are a team that like to dominate possession and deploy a high line to keep their opponents penned in. In the league, they’ve averaged 62.5% possession, Liverpool must allow them to become comfortable in possession, ever willing to hit on the break.

Formation Change

In order to aid a counter-attacking mentality, Klopp should alter his normal wide 4-3-3 to a conservative 4-1-2-1-2. This would present the Reds as a compact, narrow and tough to break down unit. This would force Bayern to play through the flanks and cross into an already Virgil van Dijk marked Robert Lewandowski.

Whilst the Germans are operating in the flanks in Liverpool’s half, Klopp’s forwards could hang on the last line of defence, ready to expose the space left behind by Bayern’s offensive-minded full-backs.

Away Goal Advantage

Arsène Wenger has been an advocator for the abolishment of the away goal rule. The Frenchman believes it encourages teams to be more cautious at home, thus having a negative effect on the overall tie. Regardless, for the second leg, Liverpool can use that rule to their advantage.

It’s a miracle Bayern were able to keep Liverpool at bay for one game, it’d be a miracle if they could do it for the whole 180 minutes. Especially when you consider the Reds have scored 70 goals in 35 games this season, averaging 2.3 goals per game.

In stark contrast, it’s no secret that Bayern Munich hasn’t been at their dominating best this season. We’re used to seeing the Bavarians several points clear at the top of the Bundesliga by early January, instead, they’re trailing a young Borussia Dortmund side. After 22 league games, Munich trail Dortmund by three points having lost four games, conceding 26 goals in the process.

Long story short, this is not the Bayern of old and a trip to the Allianz Arena is now no longer what it used to be. Liverpool are still favourites to progress to the next stage, as long as they approach the game with caution and in respect for a Bayern team, although struggling, still full of quality.

League One Preview: Bradford vs Portsmouth

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League One Preview Bradford vs Portsmouth

Bradford: This week we focus on a battle that concerns the top and the bottom of the League One table. There is surely only one winner in this match up right?

Bradford

What a terrible start to the season it has been for the Yorkshire side, and they are rooted to the bottom of the league with just ten points. With three wins under their belt, they are unlikely to make it four as the last time they won was in August against Shrewsbury.

Having already sacked Michael Collins at the start of September, current manager David Hopkin will be fearing that his job is in jeopardy as well. With just the one win under his belt and his side conceding eight goals in their previous two games, the Bradford owners might be tempted once again to sack their manager for the second time this season.

It is hard to find positives for the Bantams at the moment, but their attacking midfielder Jack Payne has at least tried to make something happen for him. The loanee has four goals to his name and plenty of creativity to find the front men, but it all depends if they can finish the chances that he has created and at the moment they cannot.

Portsmouth

The start of the season could not have gone better for Portsmouth who are loving being top of the league at the moment. 16 games into the regular season and they have lost just once against Gillingham and with Peterborough hot on their tails, they will not want to slip up again to allow them to overtake.

The experienced Kenny Jackett has done a superb job so far especially after taking over from successful manager Paul Cook. However, after his brief spell with Rotherham United, many wondered if he was still up to the task after success at Millwall, Swansea and Wolverhampton Wanderers. But he has proved them all wrong by just finishing outside the playoffs last season and now topping the table.

Compared to Bradford there are plenty of positives for Portsmouth one being their very own Jamie Vardy. Ronan Curtis is just 22 years old and is having a superb year. He is the team’s top goal scorer with six goals, been linked with Championship clubs and even earned a call-up to the national team. You feel the only way is up for him.

Head to Head

In recent history, Bradford have been the victorious side with two wins in their previous two meetings last season. A 1-0 away win, and a 3-1 win at home was perfect for Bradford as they saw off Portsmouth. However, these two fallen Premier League sides are fighting at the opposite ends of the table this season and fortune looks like it may favour Pompey.

Outcome

This game is only going one way. It would be a huge upset if Bradford were to get anything against Portsmouth and leave plenty of neutral fans disappointed if they had a bet on. My prediction is 3-0 to Portsmouth. Sorry Bradford fans

Is Eric Bailly’s time up at Manchester United?

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Eric Baily Manchester Unitred

The Manchester United defender is only in his third season but it looks like he might be surplus to requirements. In recent weeks he has been in and out of the squad but on the weekend against Newcastle United, he was hooked after the team shipped two goals within ten minutes. Sports betting sites around the planet are abuzz with the question if manager Jose Mourinho had enough of the Ivorian defender?

During the Newcastle game, Bailly was replaced with defensive midfielder Scott McTominay, who struggled and was left on the sidelines to watch the comeback. Will he be reintegrated into the squad after the international break?

It looks possible that he will do due to frailties at the back and Mourinho’s lack of trust in his other centre-halves such as Victor Lindelof, who was left on the sidelines for the whole game when two defensive midfielders played at centre back. However, Mourinho could be tempted to play Nemanja Matic as a ball playing centre-half when they return against Chelsea as fans seek the attacking nature of the second half against Newcastle once more.

With plenty of competition for centre-half Bailly should have really cemented his place in the squad. With a terrible performance against Brighton, he looked to be out of the squad for good but he has managed to force his way back in due to terrible performances from the other centre-backs at the club. Against Valencia, he looked more energetic, determined and the Bailly we saw from his first season at the club. However, within ten minutes against Newcastle, he was made to be the fall guy once again.

Despite being the first signing of Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United tenure and enjoying success in the form of the Europa League and League Cup he has endured a difficult time. After missing out on game time at the end of the season due to Mourinho’s decision to play likes of Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo because they were possibly heading off to the World Cup with their respected countries.

Former Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand feels like this could be the end of the road for Bailly. He stated it was humiliating to be brought off that early into the game especially at Old Trafford. It will be really tough for Bailly to force his way back into Mourinho’s thinking now.

Chris Smalling seems to be the favourite choice for Mourinho and he would have hoped that Bailly would be able to partner the Englishman on a regular basis but the Portuguese manager has often rotated and failed to decide on a partnership at the heart of the defence.

With January fast approaching you can imagine that Mourinho will be demanding a centre-half once again; despite Ed Woodward denying him a new one in the summer. He has spent heavily in that position but he clearly does not trust his players and that is fundamentally where he builds his title-winning sides.

Pakistan A Thrash New Zealand A in T20 Warm Up

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Pakistan vs New Zealand

5-20 off four overs from Pakistan A medium pacer Umaid Asif along with two wickets apiece from left-arm seamers Waqas Maqsood and Shaheen Shah Afridi helped roll the visitors for only 65 in 12.2 overs. It then just took Pakistan three more balls than New Zealand A faced to chase down the target for an eight-wicket win.

After winning the toss and choosing to bat first New Zealand A Captain Corey Andersonwouldn’t have been happy to see his side one wicket down after only five balls. When opening batsman Glenn Phillips was caught by Hussain Talat off the bowling of Waqas Maqsood for 4.

Shaheen Shah Afridi removed Mark Chapman in the third over when he was caught behind for 3 by Mohammad Hasan. Afridi, former Pakistan Under 19’s player, was on a hat-trick after he removed fellow opening batsman George Worker the next ball after he chopped on for 1 off 9 deliveries with the score at 11-3 after 3.3 overs.

Umaid Asif was among the wickets himself with his very first delivery as Tom Bruce picked out Asif Ali for 1. New Zealand A Captain Corey Anderson and Wicket Keeper Tim Seifert tried to stop the flow of wickets and went on to attack. Only for Anderson to get bowled by an Asif slower ball for 16 off 12.

Seifert was the only other batsmen to make a score into double figures with 26 off 17 an innings that hit five fours. Asif ended with 5-20 off four overs as he cleaned through the middle order to help roll New Zealand A for 65 in 12.2 overs.

There was the tiniest glimmer of hope for New Zealand A of defending this well below par total was Pakistan A opening batsman Sahibzada Farhan was run out by Phillips for 1 off five balls with the score at 15-1 after 3.3 overs.

Fellow opener Pakistan A Skipper Umar Amin fell in the next over hit wicket off the bowling of Kyle Jamieson for 20 off 21. Iftikhar Ahmed and Hussain Talat put on 44 for the third wicket and guided Pakistan A home, with Ahmed ending not out on 26 off 27 and Talat not out on 16 off 24 giving Pakistan A an eight-wicket win with 43 balls to spare.

New Zealand A will hope for a better showing on Monday when they face Pakistan A in the second match of their three-match series leading up to the Blackcaps tour of Pakistan.

Can Leeds Stay the Distance and Claim Promotion?

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Leeds United

Under Marco Bielsa, Leeds United have started the season strongly, deservedly occupying the top positions for the bulk of the opening weeks. However, there is still no room for complacency, with Sheffield United, West Brom and Middlesbrough standing as Leeds’ likeliest bars to automatic promotion.

In strictly numerical terms, Bielsa’s men have an obvious target in the short term, and their counter-attacking brand of football should see them achieve it. Tellingly, each of the last eight Championship teams to achieve automatic promotion to the Premier League have done so after scoring at least 29 points by the first weekend of November.

Leeds have every conceivable chance of reaching this sacred target. If they are to achieve it, the general belief is that they will do so by closing out October with two vital – but eminently winnable – home games, against Ipswich Town and Nottingham Forest, after a trip to Blackburn.

Horrible histories hurt hopeful aura

Even if Leeds fall just short of said mark, a tally of 23 points before the October international break is usually a good one, at least in the context of staying alive within the promotion race until the very end. This is reflected more empirically by the latest Championship outright index seen here, which has Leeds down as third-favourites to win the title in addition to sealing promotion.

Encouraging though that is to see, Leeds teams have developed a habit of starting seasons vigorously before fading away after Christmas. Last season was another addition to the litany of disappointments after a flying start. Under Thomas Christiansen, the Whites took 17 points from the first 21 available and kept six clean sheets in a row. After a 1-0 defeat at rivals Millwall on 16 September, Leeds won two and lost six of the following eight matches.

That sequence gave the Whites a tally of just 23 points after 15 games and put them at a very real disadvantage in the excuse of a race for an automatic promotion that would ensue. While a good run in December kept Leeds’ hopes alive, a horrendous run of 11 defeats and just four wins after the New Year finally saw Christiansen lose his job.

Marco, the maverick magician

After a strong start, the Whites finished a whole 30 points behind the second automatic promotion spot. Current projections imply that Leeds will almost certainly beat the points tally they had going into November last year, providing them with more momentum than ever before. If those projections are to be realised, then the presence of Bielsa on the touchline will be a crucial factor.

There can be no denying that Biesla’s touchline passion, though excessive on occasion, is a unique selling point in a league where the reserved and the frantic mix. While Bielsa is perhaps closer to the latter category, his passion is not without purpose. There is a genuine sense of mutual respect in the Elland Road dressing room, and it the sort that bears broad similarities to Leeds’ other promotion rivals.

Captain Cooper’s collectivism creates Championship chance

Positive and pragmatic leadership on the touchline is essential, but so too is the presence of a captain who would willingly die for the white shirt.

Admittedly, captain Liam Cooper had a day to forget in his last game before the international break, with his mistake directly causing Brentford’s equaliser in a disappointing 1-1 draw at Elland Road. However, his leadership is crucial to establishing good structural play on the pitch, and this is evidenced by the 7.76 average rating he boasted prior to his aberration against the Bees.

Cooper’s rate of clearances per game, and win rate per challenge, also compares favourably to other defensive captains in the division. Bielsa has also given Cooper license to roam forward, and while this is never a move without risk, Cooper has thrived more often than not under Bielsa’s approach. The captain himself has also moved to praise other teammates, particularly lauding Tyler Roberts after Leeds’ win at Yorkshire rivals Hull.

Roofe/Roberts relationship revealed as real deal

As of the October international break, Roberts is, in fact, the only recognised striker in the Leeds squad to have scored. While this reliance on the young Roberts as a focal point is not to every Leeds fan’s taste, it matters little as long as Kemar Roofe is behind him. On occasion, they have looked as dynamic as Dele Alli and Harry Kane, leaving opposition defences baffled.

With Roofe himself chipping in with four goals before the October international break, the signs are encouraging in Leeds’ final third. Ultimately, all the components needed for a strong challenge at the top are there.

While injuries may yet play their part, especially when the festive fixtures start to pile up, the fact remains that nobody will particularly relish a trip to Elland Road from here onwards. For now, however, all eyes will be on Leeds’ performance at Ewood Park immediately after the international break. Three points there will, unquestionably, see Bielsa’s men enjoy drastically shortened odds.

Why Cristiano Ronaldo Should Make a Dramatic Return to Manchester United

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Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo is widely recognised as the best footballer in the world and has been part of a huge rivalry with Lionel Messi since his arrival at Real Madrid. The Portuguese forward has managed to score more goals for Los Meringues than he has played games in the white shirt. An outstanding 285 goals in 265 matches see him considered as one of the greatest footballers ever to grace the earth.

In the last few years, there have been strong rumours linking Ronaldo with a dramatic move back to Old Trafford where he made his name and won his first of four Ballon D’Ors. The world record transfer fee paid back in 2009 for him now looks like a fantastic deal in comparison to the modern market. He was the catalyst for two consecutive UEFA Champions League triumphs and a La Liga triumph last season.

There’s not a single Man United fan who wouldn’t take their golden back this summer, and for the first time since the rumours arose, it looks a real possibility. This was intensified by how the world beater claimed that he wouldn’t be staying at the Bernabeu next season. He was instantly linked with teams like PSG and Bayern along with his former club, Man United. It is clear that the Red Devils hold a special place in his heart and it would certainly be the best choice for him if he was to leave Real Madrid.

Many players would be coming to the end of their peak at the age of 31 but Cristiano Ronaldo doesn’t seem to age, and he could still have a few great years ahead of him. He could be the answer to taking United back to the top level they were once at, and the transfer fee and wages wouldn’t be too much for the Manchester club. After signing Paul Pogba for around £90 million last summer, they made money back in shirt sales in just a few months, and there is no doubt that this would be the same with Rooney.

With the quality of a player like Cristiano on the training ground, the young players will quickly improve just by watching Portugal’s leading international goal scorer. His nation’s European Championship trophy win last year shows just how much of a leader he is and just how he can affect the players around him, something that Jose Mourinho’s side has been lacking since the Special One’s arrival.

He can play anywhere across the forward whether it’s in the number 9 position or out wide on either wing. With the imminent departure of Zlatan Ibrahimović and the lack of maturity in the wide positions would be something provided by Cristiano Ronaldo. It would be a fantastic deal for both deals, and at roughly €200 million (Real Madrid’s asking price), in today’s market, it could be a brilliant price to make the Red Devils great again. He was there the last time they won the Champions League and the Man United faithful will hope he is part of the team that wins the next Champions League.

Why Liverpool Need to Handle the Coutinho Situation Carefully

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Philippe Coutinho Liverpool

Over the weekend Liverpool were dealt a major blow in their bid for a strong start to the season. Coming up against Manchester City was meant to be a close and tight game, but it ended up with City running riot scoring five goals to Liverpool’s none. Despite the Sadio Mane red card argument the major topic after the game, there was still much speculation surrounding Phillippe Coutinho’s future as he was left out of the squad entirely on Saturday by Jurgen Klopp.

Klopp gave the reasoning that it was a purely fitness concern stating that it was an agreement between player and manager. However, having played and scored for Brazil earlier in the week, the reasoning may not brush with everyone in the media.

It was very clear that the former Inter Milan man wanted his move to the Nou Camp and this could be him forcing the issue again. Liverpool were very firm with Barcelona and did not want their star man to leave Anfield this window, but this may have caused a rift between player and club. There are rumours that the playmaker is going to refuse to play for his club on their return to the Champions League to avoid being cup-tied just in case he gets his move to Spain this winter.

He is such an important figure for the Merseyside giants and can create situations out of nothing, but he can lack consistency. However, that is taking nothing away from the dazzling skills, acute passing ability and long-range thumping efforts he can produce (see Liverpool vs Manchester City 1st March 2015). With all this talent and speculation he will become a distraction until he plays again. It would have been a perfect time to have at least put him on the bench against City and give him a few minutes in the end.

Not knowing the full character of Coutinho, he could become a real nuisance at the club, or he could settle straight in again. Wantaway players may be able to patch things up with their teammates, but the foundations have taken a battering, and some of the trust will have deserted. He may come back and get his head down trying to figure out if he can spend another season with Liverpool or he might just happily pick up his pay cheque until January, not putting in the full commitment fans deserve and make sure the move goes through. We do not fully know but what we do know is he will not be as much of a nuisance as Diego Costa at Chelsea!

With 2018 being a World Cup it is vital that he gets game time under his belt. There is no point in him rotting in the reserves all season, and you can see that is probably not going to be the case as Liverpool value you him too much to allow that to happen. But if he does not want to fully injure himself before a big move to Barcelona then he may well do that.

The club have done well to resist the temptation to sell. They have succumbed to that before with the sale of Luis Suarez, Fernando Torres and Xabi Alonso to Barcelona, Chelsea and Real Madrid respectively. Now they must integrate the player back into the squad to stop speculation because until then the papers will still be talking about his “imminent” move to Barcelona.

Liverpool must take that spotlight off him now and just play him. If he does not play their Champions League game, there will be major questions about his future with the club. He is 25 years old and will still need guidance along the way; the club have to support him and offer that guidance to him. Put him on the bench and play him for a few minutes against Sevilla. Fail to do so, and the media circus will continue until January.

Bristol City vs Derby County – Combined XI

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With Derby County making the trip to Ashton Gate to take on Bristol City on Saturday afternoon in The Championship, we take a look at which players would make a combined starting line-up for the two teams.

Goalkeeper: Scott Carson

The 32-year-old certainly is not one of the best goalies in the division, but he is an experienced shot stopper that can be relied on. The fact he has made four appearances for England in his career shows that he has enough quality to perform at this level. He has made a solid start to this season with a number of clean sheets, but one area he does still need to improve on is his distribution.

Right-Back: Bailey Wright

The 25-year-old Australian defender is traditionally a centre-back but can be utilised in the right-back position if needed. He has been outstanding for the Robins since joining the club for an undisclosed fee from Preston North End in January. He still has plenty of time to improve his game even further and has the potential to play at a top level in the future.

Centre-Back: Aden Flint

The centre-back was in demand this summer as he was linked with a host of Championship rivals such as Birmingham City. However, the 28-year-old decided to remain at Ashton Gate and could be an influential player for Lee Johnson’s side this season. He is undoubtedly one of the best defenders in the division for his contribution at both ends of the pitch. He scored five goals last season and is already on track to better that tally in the current campaign.

Centre-Back: Curtis Davies

The 32-year-old was lured to Pride Park this summer by Gary Rowett following a five-year spell at Hull City. He is another player with a wealth of experience and is already proving to be a valued member of Derby’s squad this season. He offers the sort of leadership that the Rams have perhaps been missing in recent years and it will be interesting to see whether his presence makes a difference.

Left-Back: Marcus Olsson

The 29-year-old full-back joined from Blackburn Rovers for an undisclosed fee in January 2016 and has proved to be a very astute signing. He became an instant fan’s favourite as he scored the winning goal against local rivals Nottingham Forest in March 2016 and has continued to be a success since. He is arguably one of the best attacking full-backs in the division.

Defensive Midfielder: Tom Huddlestone

Similarly to Davies, the 30-year-old midfielder also arrived at Derby this summer following a lengthy spell with Hull City. The duo had been a key part of the spine of Hull’s team and will now be looking to have a similar impact at Pride Park. However, Huddlestone will have an extra motive considering he came through the youth academy at Derby and subsequently has a deep affinity for the club. He is certainly a top player at this level and will play a key role this season if Rowett’s side are to challenge for a place in the top flight.

Central Midfielder: Josh Brownhill

The 21-year-old made 27 appearances for Johnson’s side last season but looks like he could have a much bigger impact in this campaign. He has made a superb start and is really dominating games in the midfield for the Robins. He has always had the potential to be a top player at this level, and it looks like he might start to show why this season. It will be interesting to see whether he can keep up his current form for the rest of the season.

Central Midfielder: Jamie Paterson

The 25-year-old is traditionally a wide player but can be utilised anywhere in midfield and can still be effective. He was given his chance to shine in The Championship by Nottingham Forest but joined the Robins in 2016 for more first-team opportunities. Although he has not started every game so far this season, he is still a very talented player and has a habit of finding the back of the net in home games at Ashton Gate.

Attacking Midfielder: Tom Lawrence

Derby’s marquee signing this summer was, without doubt, the 23-year-old midfielder as he joined from Premier League side Leicester City for a hefty fee. He made a name for himself last season at Ipswich Town as he scored nine goals in 34 league appearances, with most of them being stunning strikes. He will be looking to continue his development under the management of Rowett this season.

Striker: Bobby Reid

There is no doubt that the 24-year-old’s goalscoring form so far this season has come as a huge surprise. The striker only managed to score three goals in 30 appearances last season but has already scored five goals in just seven appearances so far in the current campaign. His latest goal came in the 3-3 draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers in midweek, and he will be confident of adding to his tally against the Rams on Saturday.

Striker: Matej Vydra

The 25-year-old striker has seen his career stutter in recent years but looks set to put that right this season. He joined the club last summer for a fee of around £8 million from Premier League side Watford but did not make the sort of impact he would have been hoping for. He has scored three goals already this season which is not a bad return considering he only scored five in the entirety of the last campaign.