Goals at a premium for desperate Derby
Rams look set for a tense clash with struggling Sunderland
Sky Bet Championship
Sky Sports Football, 7.45pm Friday
The Rams, not for the first time, have suffered a major slump in form as they bid for a Sky Bet Championship playoff place while the spectre of relegation is again looming over the Black Cats.
Bottom of the Championship table after slipping out of the Premier League last season, Sunderland have taken just six points from 13 games since the turn of the year.
They arrive at Derby on a run of three straight defeats without a goal and Lewis Grabban, who left for Aston Villa in January, remains their top scorer with 12 league goals, twice as many as any other Sunderland player.
The Black Cats' malaise means Derby are short-priced favourites to pocket the points despite their own miserable run of one victory in ten league matches, which came against a Brentford side reduced to ten men in the 21st minute.
Gary Rowett's side, who start the day in fifth place, could easily be out of the playoff spots by the time they kick off against Sunderland.
Middlesbrough, Bristol City, Preston and Sheffield United are all within two points of the Rams so positive results for those four teams earlier in the day would crank up the pressure on the hosts.
A draw isn't much use to either side but eight of Derby's last 12 games have finished all-square and the lack of in-form attacking players on the pitch means another tight contest looks likely.
Sunderland have been beaten to nil in six of their last nine outings and since Christmas Derby have had goalless draws with Hull, Bristol City, Millwall and, last time out, Nottingham Forest.
The Rams still have to play top-eight rivals Wolves, Cardiff, Aston Villa, Boro and Preston during a brutal run-in so this looks a must-win fixture. However, under 2.5 goals is the preferred bet given the low levels of confidence in the two camps.
Under 2.5 goals
2pts 7-8 188Bet
Tom Huddlestone serves a one-match ban and Joe Ledley (calf) is likely to miss out again. Chris Baird returns from suspension.
Jake Clarke-Salter and Jason Steele are banned and Robbin Ruiter, Tyias Browning, Jonny Williams, Joel Asoro and Duncan Watmore are injured. Darron Gibson has been suspended by the club after a drink-driving charge.
Derby have drawn eight of their 12 league matches in 2018.
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