Confidence high in Rams camp with long unbeaten run
Hammers performing better than results suggest?
Class can prevail in a game with few goals
Derby v West Ham
Live on ITV4
Rams unbeaten since October
Derby County will go into Monday night's FA Cup fourth round tie against West Ham as one of the country's form teams.
Paul Warne's men last tasted a regulation defeat in October, and although they were knocked out of the EFL Cup by Liverpool the following month, that defeat came via a penalty shoot-out after drawing 0-0 after 90 minutes.
Including that goalless draw at Anfield, the Rams are unbeaten in 19 games, winning six on the spin heading into Monday's clash with the Hammers.
Warne's men have been particularly strong at Pride Park where they've conceded just a solitary goal since late October, that coming in last week's 2-1 home win over Bolton following a run of six consecutive clean sheets in front of their own fans.
Derby boast quite a number of familiar 'lower league' names including the likes of Curtis Davies, Conor Hourihane and David McGoldrick, but perhaps the stars of their team are midfielders Max Bird and Jason Knight.
Bird is an academy graduate while Knight joined the club at the age of 16 and both have played professional football only for Derby County. Warne recently declared that if he was to be reincarnated as a footballer, he'd want to come back as Jason Knight!
Tough times for Hammers but signs are good
Just over a week ago West Ham were in the Premier League relegation zone, which is hard to believe given that they've qualified for European football in the last two campaigns.
David Moyes' men secured a much-needed league win over Everton last week to move them out of the bottom three, and since the World Cup break the Hammers shouldn't be too worried about how they've performed... results aside obviously.
They acquitted themselves very well away to Arsenal on Boxing Day, dominated possession and the shot count in a home defeat to Brentford, scored twice in an away draw at Leeds, and lost by the single goal away to Wolves.
They've also defeated Brentford away in the FA Cup, and of course have that win over the Toffees last week, both victories coming without conceding a goal.
So the signs are definitely there that West Ham are too good to be embroiled in a relegation battle, and it could well be that a movement up the table in the coming weeks will coincide with a good cup run.
Gianluca Scamacca remains on the sidelines and new signing Danny Ings picked up a knee injury in the win over Everton, so Michail Antonio should lead the line on Monday night in a relatively full strength starting XI given that the Hammers have no midweek fixture.
Low-scoring win for Hammers the best bet
It's impossible to knock Derby's recent form, and their performances at Pride Park, and there's no doubt that home support, being underdogs, and this being the FA Cup will give them a further boost on Monday night.
But there's no escaping the view that a strong West Ham line-up should be too good for the League One promotion contenders.
On the Betfair Exchange Moyes' men can be backed at around 1.8810/11, which isn't a bad price at all in my opinion. The Rams are trading at around 4.57/2 with the Draw available to back at 3.814/5.
I do fancy the Hammers to secure their passage to round five with a win on the night, but it certainly won't be a walk in the (Pride) park and I can see Derby staying in the game throughout.
I do fancy goals to be at a premium however. Warne's men don't concede many at all in front of their own fans, though they'll find it much tougher to score themselves against a better class side than they face in League One.
West Ham themselves have conceded just the one goal in their last three outings against Premier League sides, so expect a relatively low-scoring affair on Monday night.
Under 2.5 Goals can be backed at 1.9420/21 on the Exchange, which again, I view as a decent price, but for my best bet of the game I'm going to the Sportsbook to back a West Ham win with Under 3.5 Goals in the game being scored, available to back at 6/4.
Fancy Derby? Fancy a Bet Builder?
I thought long and hard about trying to get Derby on side in one way or another, but I just kept going back to my thinking that this will be a relatively tight game with West Ham's class eventually winning the day.
But I have to admit, I really don't like predicting low-scoring games. There's nothing worse than watching a football match and hoping for a dull affair with few goals.
But I have to be true to myself, if that's how I feel the game will go then that's how I must tip - what will be wil be and all that.
But if we are to witness an exciting affair with a few early goals then Derby's Nathaniel Mendez-Laing is the player I'd be looking to include in a Bet Builder.
The well-travelled 30-year-old has had 16 goal involvements this season (7 goals, 9 assists) and if Aaron Cresswell plays and attemps to get forward - as he often does - on Monday night, it could leave plenty of space for Derby's right-winger to exploit.
You can add Mendez-Laing to Score or Assist (12/5 if you fancy it as a single) to your Bet Builder, along with West Ham's star man, Jarrod Bowen, to do the same, and Over 3.5 Goals in the match at combined odds of 11.34.
Including the above three selections with Derby not losing (win or draw in Double Chance market) pays out at over 20/1.
I'll have a small wager on the above Bet Builders myself, but I won't put them up as recommended bets here as they contradict the main tip. Good luck.