Derby County Under-18s will host Wolverhampton Wanderers in their first game back in England since returning from their successful trip to Iceland.
It will be the second time in just over a week that the two academy sides have met each other. Last Friday, the Under-23s clashed at the University of Loughborough Stadium, but Justin Walker’s side will be hoping they can go one better than their elders at the Moor Farm Training Centre.
The young Rams return to the Premier League – North division after some time out. In fact, Saturday’s league meeting will come a long three weeks after their last league fixture against Sunderland in a 3-0 away victory for Walker’s side on their travels up north.
After a disappointing defeat in the Premier League cup to Middlesbrough, the side travelled to Reykjavic to face IA Akranes in the second round of the UEFA Youth League in the country’s capital.
In what proved to be a tough test in Iceland, the side manged to return back with a 2-1 lead to put themselves in a great position to progress to the next round of the competition.
Haven’t we met before?
These two sides actually met towards the end of the 18/19 campaign. It ended in a 6-0 thumping too. It was a special encounter as all six goals came from different sources. Jordan Brown, Archie Brown, Morgan Whittaker, Louie Sibley, Liam Delap and Eiran Cashin all found themselves on the scoresheet in what proved to be Derby’s most comprehensive win of the campaign.
That win put Derby to within touching distance of the league title. It meant that they were six points clear with two games to go with a +12 goal difference advantage over the chasing Liverpool. Walker’s side would go on to win the division and earn a spot in the UEFA Youth League.
In the same fixture last season, the side won 2-1 at Moor Farm thanks to goals from Tyree Wilson and Morgan Whittaker. If the side can replicate either one of these two results in their upcoming encounter, there is no doubt that Walker would leave the field a happy man… however you can imagine which of the two results he’d rather replicate.
Players in form:
Jack Stretton is undoubtedly the player to watch for this upcoming fixture. The striker has scored three goals in Derby’s last two games, including a brace in their 7-2 riot against Minsk. The player seems to be enjoying life in the European competition, scoring the all-important second goal in that 2-1 win over IA Akranes.
His delicately lobbed finish proved to be the difference between the two sides. It was a goal reminiscent of the Under-18s’ performances last season, with Sibley driving through the heart of the midfield before releasing Stretton who, yet again, proved his calmess in front of goal.
Leading the way for in terms of their Premier League campaign, though, is Brown. The powerful winger has five goals and one assist to his name already this term and is just three behind the division’s top scorer.
Words by: Joseph Lightfoot