More analysis of today's big game with an opposition view, a look at some key battles and some previous meetings.


Ed Dawes, BBC Radio Derby

Derby are in a much better situation than last season on and off the field. They have learned how to win ugly and grind results out which they couldn’t do last season.

It’s been a great season so far because of the way they have adapted their play. Fans will moan it’s not entertaining but do you want entertainment and League One or to grind and graft your way out of the division?

It’s so tight with the chasers – Barnsley, Bolton. Derby just need to hold their nerve. Portsmouth look dead set to win the league but Derby still have to go to Fratton Park. You can’t call it, but Derby look confident.

Losing James Collins is a big problem but Derby fans are hoping Dwight Gayle can fit straight into his shoes. I am not sure if Gayle will start this weekend because he hasn’t played a lot of football.

The game at Oakwell a year ago was one of the worst performances of last season. Derby made endless mistakes. They were terrified of Barnsley’s excellent press.

I think Derby are a little bit more savvy and streewise now and have better players to deal with that situation.



Derby sold their academy product Bird to Bristol City in January and loaned him back for the rest of the season. He has five goals and seven assists this season.

Bird played in a midfield two with January signing Ebou Adams on Saturday, after they changed from a central three with captain Conor Hourihane dropping to the bench. They could go back to a three at Oakwell to match Barnsley who will likely continue with Phillips, Herbie Kane and Luca Connell.

Although Connell is still striving for consistency after his illness, he thrived in the big home games this time last year when he helped to overrun more experienced midfields.

Phillips and Kane are both in top form with regular goals and assists. Phillips scored a fine goal in last season’s fixture and is the man of the moment for the Reds.


The Rams have problems in attack with January signing Corey Blackett-Taylor an injury doubt and top-scorer James Collins – who has eight goals against the Reds – out with a knee problem. With three other strikers also injured, veteran goal-scorer Dwight Gayle joined this week. Gayle has won all three meetings with the Reds, netting three goals.

Mendez-Laing has 13 assists – the most in the division -– and eight goals this season. The Guatemala international played as a striker on Saturday and could start in the middle of a pacy and mobile front three at Oakwell.

It is also unknown what defence the Reds will select.

They moved Jordan Williams back to right wing-back on Saturday – where he helped set up two goals against Derby last season – with Mael de Gevigney joined by Jamie McCart and Earl in the back three. It must be tempting to hand a first start to Donovan Pines but, with Collins injured, they may not need as much physicality. Earl has impressed since signing in January but this is likely to be his biggest test so far.


These two were Forest Green’s marauding wing-backs when they won the League Two title two years ago. But they are now likely to come up against each other, although Wilson has been playing in a front three rather than wing-back. Wilson – who signed last summer after a year at Bristol City – caused problems for Barnsley with his forward runs in November’s game.


Cole and James Norwood terrorised Derby centre-backs Cashin and Craig Forsyth last season, pressing them into regular errors and running them ragged with their extra energy.

Cashin played in a back three with experienced duo Sonny Bradley and Curtis Nelson on Saturday but they could revert to a back four at Oakwell. Cole, the division’s top-scorer, netted twice in this fixture last season. He started alongside Sam Cosgrove on Saturday – who scored an important goal – but, if the Reds’ tactics are to press Derby’s defenders again, John McAtee is potentially more suited to that.


Reds 2, Rams 0 – September 23, 1995

All eyes were on Jan Molby as the legendary midfielder made his Barnsley debut on loan from Liverpool. His powerful long-range shot in the eighth-minute was spilled by goalkeeper Russell Hoult and Andy Liddell turned in the rebound. Liddell added a second just before half-time.

Reds 2, Rams 0 – August 13, 2016

Paul Heckingbottom’s Barnsley got their first Championship win since promotion. Conor Hourihane – who now captains Derby – was the star man for the hosts as his shot hit the post then England goalkeeper Scott Carson before going in, then his free-kick was headed home by Alfie Mawson who would soon leave to Swansea for £5million.

Reds 0, Rams 3 – December 9, 2017

Derby’s last win at Oakwell came during a poor run for Heckingbottom’s team, who suffered a fifth straight loss. Internationals Tom Lawrence, Matej Vydra and Andi Weimann got the goals for the Rams who were then spending big in an attempt to reach the top flight.

Reds 2, Rams 1 – November 3, 2021

Jo Laumann took charge as caretaker days after the sacking of Markus Schopp and ended a 15-game winless run. The visitors took the lead but Victor Adeboyejo levelled against the run of play then Aaron Leya Iseka got the winner. The Reds would not come from behind to win for more than two years until a victory at Reading in December last year.

Reds 4, Rams 1– February 25, 2023

This was the start of what looked a make or break run of fixtures against Barnsley’s promotion rivals last season.

After a push for extra supporters to attend, one of the biggest crowds at Oakwell in years saw a comfortable home win. Derby’s defence could not cope with the hosts’ pressing in the first half, losing the ball near their goal often as Devante Cole’s brace and an Adam Phillips strike put Barnsley 3-1 up at half-time. Ex-Ram Luke Thomas completed the rout late on after an error by ex-Red goalkeeper Joe Wildsmith.