Wayne Rooney will miss his third and final game after self-isolating after a friend tested positive for coronavirus. Pic: Hannah Fountain - CameraSport via Getty Images

Cardiff City’s Neil Harris Expects Different Derby Test….And Not Just Because There Is No Wayne Rooney

By Jack Cook

Neil Harris says Cardiff City will face a different Derby team to the one they beat a few months ago – and not just because Wayne Rooney is missing.

When the sides faced each other last July both were challenging for the top six, but it was the Bluebirds who came out on top 2-1 to reach the play-offs as the Rams missed out.

City travel to Pride Park Stadium on Wednesday with both teams not having the start that they would have wanted to the Championship.

But Derby will be without club captain and England’s record goalscorer Rooney as he is self-isolating after being within contact of a friend who tested positive for coronavirus.

Neil Harris says City would have beaten former boss Neil Warnock’s Middlesbrough had they taken their chances. Ian Cook/CameraSport via Getty Images

“Wayne obviously is a top player in world football and the championship and a huge personality in the group,” said Harris.

“I’m sure it will be a loss to any team. Whatever team Derby put out is going to be a good side.

“We won’t see a Derby team that plays similar to what they did a few months ago when they came to the Cardiff City Stadium.

“They are a team that’s finding their way a little bit at the moment. They’ve got good players, important players back into the group.

“It will be a completely different game from the other evening and we have to make sure that we handle the game in a different way.

“You have to have great shape, good pressing triggers and have to be well organised against a Derby County side.”

City loanee Harry Wilson helped Derby reach the play-off final at Wembley in 2019 when on loan at Derby from Liverpool. Pic: Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images

Harris saw City held by former manager Neil Warnock’s  Middlesbrough last time out to make it just two points from four home games so far this season.

But Harris insisted: “If we take our chances the other night, we win that game by five. That was my disappointment after the game.”

But City haven’t lost a game on the road this season – taking seven points from nine – while Derby County haven’t picked up a single point at home with all four of their points coming away from home

“The results show we have been better away, I think results in general across the football league. Teams have won more away games than home games,” said Harris.

“I don’t expect that to change while there’s no fans, it’s a completely level playing field.

Harris hopes Lee Tomlin, will be back in action soon. Pic: Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images

“In some ways mentally it’s better to be away from home because you normally expect the worst. When you go away from home you expect an onslaught of abuse from the fans.”

Wednesday night’s game will also see Harry Wilson return to his former club after a successful loan spell at the Rams back in the 2018/19 season when the Wales international scored 15 goals.

Harris added: “I think he had a great loan spell where he scored a lot of goals for Derby a couple of years ago.

“I think also during his loan spell last season (at Bournemouth) where he scored eight or nine goals in the Premier League.

“I think he’s had two great loan spells and I think he’s started very well for us.

“He creates chances, great free-kick deliveries, great corners, gets lots of shots off and he’s a handful to play against.

“I enjoy seeing him every day in training and he’s a real breath of fresh air within the group as well, personality-wise and will just go from strength to strength.”

City are hopeful that right back Jordi Osei-Tutu will be fit for the upcoming game as the Liverpool loanee was substituted off with an injury against Middlesbrough.

Neil Harris reckons the lack of fans is making away wins more common throughout the leagues. Pic: Getty Images.

“It’s been a little stop start for him with that we have to make a decision whether he will be included at Derby,” added Harris. “We’ll see how he goes today and make the decision of whether he travels to Derby or not.”

City could also see the return of left-back Joe Bennett despite the impressive display from youngster Joel Bagan who stepped up to replace Bennett and other injured left-back Greg Cunningham.

“There’s a chance, Joe’s another one that needs to get on the training pitch.

“In his absence, I thought Joel was excellent and he just goes from strength to strength with the more minutes he plays on the pitch, but I’m certainly hopeful of having Joe back in the group.

“It’s another hamstring where you have to be careful, but you also want important players as well. We’ll see how he goes (in training) and make the decisions whether he travels also.”

Filip Benkovic will play for U23s to get some match fitness having barely played for Leicester this season. Pic: Plumb Images/Leicester City FC via Getty Images

More positive injury news for the Bluebirds is that fan favourite Lee Tomlin could return to action this week.

“Tomo’s been on the training pitch, it’s a real positive for us and is key to keep him on the training pitch and we are certainly hopeful of having him involved this week.”

Transfer deadline day signing Filip Benkovic, who’s yet to make his debut, will not feature against Derby but will play for the under 23s to get his match fitness up and running.

“Filip trained with us Saturday morning and he’ll play in the under 23 to get minutes.

“He had a good loan spell with Bristol City after lockdown where he played some games. Over the course of pre-season, he played 28 minutes and 45 minutes for Leicester City so he’s short of match minutes.”

 

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