Talking Tactics | Swansea City v Derby County
Football stats experts WhoScored.com take a look at the form of Morgan Whittaker, and assess the impact he could make against his former club Derby this weekend.
Swansea City fought back valiantly to go 2-1 up at Reading last week after Yakou Meite had put the Royals ahead, but Steve Cooper won't have been pleased to allow Tomas Esteves an equaliser in second-half stoppage time to rescue a point at the Madejski.
Nevertheless, the 2-2 draw on Sunday was enough to secure a play-off finish and, with two games to spare, Swansea can end the campaign pressure free.
Cooper, of course, will want to finish the regular season as high as possible and take momentum into the play-offs, but the Swans can at least rest easy knowing they'll be competing to secure promotion.
As such, Cooper may take the opportunity to hand some fringe players minutes to stake their claim for action in the semi-final meeting with Brentford, Bournemouth or Barnsley.
The south Wales side take on Derby and high-flying Watford to see out 2020-21, with the former battling to retain a Championship spot.
Four points clear of the bottom three with two games to play, the Rams could secure safety this weekend if results go their way, though 22nd-placed Rotherham do have a game in hand over Wayne Rooney's side.
That said, their form has nosedived at just the wrong time. Derby come into Saturday's clash on a five-game losing streak and they haven't won an away game since mid-February, when they defeated basement boys Wycombe 2-1 at Adams Park. Their eight-game away winless run is the longest current streak of its kind in the division.
Away from home, only Sheffield Wednesday (16) and Wycombe (14) have lost more games than Derby (13) this season and while Swansea haven't been in great form at the Liberty Stadium of late - they have failed to win in four at home - they have been strong on home turf over the balance of the campaign.
It could be that a familiar face comes back to haunt the Rams this weekend. Morgan Whittaker swapped Derby for Swansea earlier in the year and, while he hasn't featured prominently under Cooper - only two of his 10 league outings have been from the off - he showcased what he is capable of by netting on his Swansea debut in their eventual 3-1 FA Cup loss to Premier League leaders Manchester City in February.
Whittaker has had a direct hand in just two league goals in his senior career, but both came for Derby in last season's 3-1 win at Birmingham on the final day of 2019-20 as he came off the bench to score late on before turning provider for Louie Sibley to confirm all three points.
With the pressure briefly off, the 20-year-old has proven how capable a goalscorer he is and with nothing to play for over the next two game weeks, Cooper may feel now is the time to unleash Whittaker.
Derby have conceded at least once in nine of their last 10 away league outings, and Whittaker would surely relish the opportunity to open his league account for the Swans this weekend given the chance.
If handed the chance, Whittaker may well find himself facing up against Matthew Clarke. The 24-year-old has started 40 of Derby's 44 league matches this season and, with a WhoScored.com rating of 7.08, is the Rams' second best rated player in 2020-21.
One of Clarke's three statistically calculated WhoScored.com strengths is 'concentration', so he has the mental qualities to limit Whittaker's impact in front of goal, which could aid Derby's push to beat the drop.
That said, Whittaker will be playing with a point to prove if Cooper does hand him a third league start following his February arrival and he has already shown a willingness to take opponents on during his short time at Swansea. He will want to make the most of the opportunity should it come his way this weekend.