Predicted Derby County team vs Rotherham United: Bench role for six-goal winger

Derby County West Stand

We take a look at the starting XI we think Derby fans should expect to line-up against Rotherham United on opening day.

The Rams will be eager to kick-off their Championship campaign with a win and put the memories of last season's play-off final loss well behind them. 

Derby County manager Steve McClaren has focused much of his efforts in the close season on keeping and working with the core group of players that helped Derby to a third placed finish last season.

Andre Wisdom, who has joined West Bromwich Albion on loan, and Patrick Bamford are the only two first team players from last season that are not currently with the Rams. However, key signing George Thorne suffered a season-long injury just days after his multi-million pound move from West Brom.  

SEE ALSO: Top five English prospects in the Championship: Leeds and Chelsea players featured

Nevertheless, the Rams have significantly strengthened the squad depth and brought in an exciting prospect in Cyrus Christie to replace Andre Wisdom at right-back.

A solid start is a must for Derby in order to quash talks of a play-off hangover and here is the line-up we predict Steve McClaren will put out to do just that:

Lee Grant

Cyrus Christie - Richard Keogh (C) - Jake Buxton - Craig Forsyth

Will Hughes

Craig Bryson - Jeff Hendrick

Simon Dawkins                   Chris Martin                Johnny Russell

SUBS: Kelle Roos; Kieron Freeman; Lee Naylor; John Eustace; Jamie Ward; Ivan Calero; Leon Best

Analysis:

The side, for the most part, is the one that was left heartbroken at Wembley just a few months ago. 

At the back, the Derby side picks itself. We believe Steve McClaren will select, aside for Christie coming in for Wisdom, the same back five that picked up so many appearances for Derby last season. Buxton, who missed the friendly against Rangers through injury, is touch and go but the noise around the club is that he is expected to be fit. 

In midfield, the injury to George Thorne is a massive loss but the strength in depth is shown when Will Hughes, England Under-21s defensive midfielder, can come in and replace him in that role. Ideally, Hughes is used as a more attacking midfielder, but in this formation it allows Hendrick and Bryson to do what they do best and get at the opposition defence. 

In attack, Simon Dawkins, who was excellent against Rangers, is likely to keep his place ahead of Jamie Ward in the team and play on the wide-right of an attacking three, whilst Johnny Russell is expected to line-up on the wide-left. No surprises expected as Chris Martin, who scored twice against Rangers in his last game, lines up spear-heading the dangerous Derby attack. 

On the bench, the form of Ivan Calero, who has netted six times in pre-season, is likely to stand him in good stead for a bench role against Rotherham, possibly in the place of Republic of Ireland international Conor Sammon. Leon Best, who signed on loan from Blackburn this week, is also expected to feature on the bench. 

Who would you rather see on the bench Saturday, Calero or Sammon?

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch