Derby know victory at Swansea on Saturday could secure Championship safety. Mark O'Haire oversees the vital encounter from the Liberty Stadium...
"The visitors have found goalscoring a particular problem in 2020/21, managing a measly 15 goals on the road and scoring multiple goals just twice in their past 13 fixtures"
Swansea v Derby
Saturday May 1, 15:00
Swansea focussing on the play-offs?
Swansea supremo Steve Cooper has urged his players not to be satisfied with a play-off place as they look to secure a Premier League return in the coming weeks. The Swans earned a 2-2 draw at Reading to secure a top-six finish last weekend, although the club's coach stressed his squad must not settle for just a play-off place this season.
After a semi-final defeat by Brentford last season, Cooper is demanding more and said, "We are happy to be in there, satisfied, but really motivated to go and do better than we did last year" with the former England youth coach suggesting his side need to be "a bit more consistent" if they are to realise their dreams and secure promotion back to the top-flight.
Top scorer Andre Ayew remains out, whilst Cooper hinted he'll shuffle his pack ahead of the play-offs, adding: "We might have to think about how we approach the two games in terms of getting ready for the play-offs. It won't be like 10 or 11 changes, it might be something like you do in the League Cup. But there might be a chance to use the squad a bit more."
Derby in danger
Derby remain in grave danger of demotion after the Rams slipped to a fifth successive league loss for the first time since 2011 last week. Colin Kazim-Richards' strike had put County ahead against Birmingham at Pride Park, the only noteworthy action of a forgettable first half. But two Blues second-half strikes piled on the misery for Wayne Rooney's outfit.
The result leaves Derby one place above the relegation zone with Rooney admitting, "It's frustrating. I've questioned the players for their lack of fight and energy but today I can't. They fought for every ball. The one thing we knew was, long throws would come into the box. We dealt with it well but we had two lapses in concentration and it has cost us."
Rooney has been criticised for making too many changes to personnel and shape/tactics during his 31 league games in sole charge of the team but insists his players are on the right track to survival, suggesting the squad is full of desire and determination to complete the job. Patrick Roberts and Kamil Jozwiak are hoping for recalls to the starting XI.
Swansea are winless in their last seven meetings with Derby since 2010 (W0-D3-L4), that includes a 2-0 reverse when the pair met at Pride Park back in mid-December. The Swans have posted a solitary home league success against the Rams since 1983 and were turned over 3-2 by County here in the duos' most recent meeting in South Wales last season.
Swansea 2.3611/8 are stuttering over the finishing line having posted only W2-D2-L5 in their past nine Championship games, enduring as many defeats as the Swans had suffered in their previous 30 league matches combined. Steve Cooper's troops have found Liberty Stadium outings particularly troublesome, returning W1-D1-L4 here since late February.
Wayne Rooney took sole charge of Derby 3.4012/5 in November and in the 18 league games that followed, oversaw W9-D4-L5 for 1.72 points per-game. Derby climbed off the bottom of the Championship to 16th, but have since managed one success in 13 matches, and five consecutive defeats to leave County scrambling to secure their Championship status.
Swansea have fired blanks in five of their last nine Championship dates, with seven of the most recent 11 tussles producing Under 2.5 Goals 1.608/13. However, with a top-six finish already secured, plus the potential for Steve Cooper to make significant changes to his starting XI, the hosts could be willing to play a more expansive game without pressure.
Derby have delivered a tally of three clean sheets in 18 league outings since the end of the January with 10 of those tussles producing Over 2.5 Goals 2.206/5 profit. Even so, the visitors have found goalscoring a particular problem in 2020/21, managing a measly 15 goals on the road and scoring multiple goals just twice in their past 13 fixtures.
Considering the circumstances, the significance of the match for the visitors, plus Swansea's possible alterations and the duos recent woes in the final-third, I'm happy to take 1.855/6 on 'No' in the Both Teams To Score column. It's already banked in 29/44 (66%) of the two teams' collective home/away contests this term and looks a solid runner.
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