Talking Tactics | Swansea City v Derby County
Swansea City come into Saturday's welcome of Derby on a four-match unbeaten run, picking up 10 points from 12 available in the process, a record they'll seek to extend this weekend.
Ahead of the game against the Rams, WhoScored.com preview the encounter, looking at what to expect from Derby, the key battle and a key stat.
What to expect from Derby
After a 21-point deduction, Derby have been doing all they can to complete the great escape. However, with six games to go, they are now nine points off safety and face an uphill struggle to maintain their Championship status.
Nevertheless, such a spirited effort hasn't gone unnoticed and Wayne Rooney has won a legion of admirers as a result of his managerial exploits at Pride Park.
They'll take heart from their narrow 1-0 win over Preston last weekend as motivation as they aim to see out a tough campaign on a high.
Rooney can be expected to use a 4-2-3-1 system for Saturday's game at Swansea, that his most-used formation in 2021-22, though Max Bird misses out after his red card in the aforementioned victory.
Krystian Bielik should therefore link up alongside Jason Knight at the base of the midfield.
Bielik isn't a particularly poor deputy with the Pole averaging 1.6 tackles per 90 this season and he'll be tough to get the better of in the middle of the park this weekend.
The midfield anchors allow for the offensive stars to do what they do best in the final third with Welshman Tom Lawrence benefiting from the freedom afforded to him in attack.
Lawrence has scored more goals (10) and provided more assists (5) than any other Derby player in the Championship this season, while Ravel Morrison, who netted off the bench against Preston, has four goals to his name and should feature from the outset on the left in south Wales.
On the opposite flank, teenager Malcolm Ebiowei has been difficult to stop when he does gain a head of steam. Maximising a statistically calculated WhoScored.com strength of 'dribbling', the 18-year-old is completing more dribbles per 90 (5.2) than any other player in the Championship this season and, while he is yet to directly contribute to a goal in his 10 outings, Ebiowei's dribbling ability means he is able to peg opponents back when needed.
That said, the lack of goal involvements is not for want of trying with Ebiowei making 1.7 key passes per 90, that the best of all Derby players, and explains why the Rams have developed a statistically calculated WhoScored.com strength of 'creating chances through individual skill'.
It won't be long before Ebiowei really makes a name for himself for Derby. Swansea will hope that doesn't start in Saturday's game.
Only Sheffield United (17) have kept more clean sheets than Swansea (16) in the Championship this season, with three of those coming in the Swans' last three league matches.
Joel Latibeaudiere started two of those - wins over Cardiff and Millwall - and is likely to keep his place at the back against Derby.
"He was great again in this game. He was really, really good," Swansea boss Russell Martin said of the 22-year-old after the midweek win at Millwall, where he earned a WhoScored.com rating of 7.24; only match winner Joel Piroe (7.58) and Jay Fulton (7.48) earned better at the Den.
Swansea's league goals conceded per game drops from 1.40 to 1.21 when Latibeaudiere starts this season, so his inclusion in the XI is having a positive impact for the Swans defensively and Martin is hoping that record continues on Saturday.
He'll look to improve this return against a Derby side that has scored just 12 away league goals this season; no team has netted fewer.
Expected to start on the left of Martin's three-man backline, Latibeaudiere will look to help the Swans to another three points with Ebiowei set to be Derby's dangerman from the right.
As the above stats show, the teenage winger is a handful for any opponent, so the Swansea centre-back will look to be, to quote Martin, "great again" in order to help Swansea to three points and another clean sheet.
Not taking into account their points deduction, Derby have earned 12 points on the road this season; only Barnsley (7) and Peterborough (8) have claimed fewer on their travels in England's second tier this term.
However, while Rooney's side have impressed at home, they have been poor on the road in 2022, picking up just one point from their eight games.
Seven successive away defeats is also the longest record of it's kind in the Championship this season, and no-one should expect Swansea to give them an easy time as they look to inflict an eighth away defeat on the trot on the Rams and extend their unbeaten run to five league matches in the process.