DERBY County are facing a potential double blow ahead of their showdown with neighbours Nottingham Forest.
They will be without experienced midfielder John Eustace who starts a two-match ban after receiving his 10th yellow card of the season in Saturday’s goalless draw at Reading.
And the Rams could also be missing fellow midfielder Will Hughes.
Derby are sweating on the fitness of the 18-year-old after a groin injury forced him to limp off half an hour into the Reading game.
Head coach Steve McClaren gave little away when asked about Hughes’ injury and the player’s chances of being fit to face Forest.
“It is too early to say,” said McClaren.
“He has a groin injury. Hopefully, it is not too bad. We will assess him this week.”
Eustace’s absence coupled with Hughes being a major doubt is likely to open the door for George Thorne to finally make his debut.
Thorne joined the Rams on loan from West Bromwich Albion ahead of the Birmingham City game on February 1, but has had to wait for his chance.
“A chance for George? Yes, that’s right,” said McClaren.
“George has been desperately unlucky because John Eustace has been playing well.”
Eustace’s 10th booking arrived in the final minute at Reading when he was cautioned for a foul on substitute Nick Blackman.
He had been on nine bookings since the draw at Birmingham six weeks ago.
A player who receives 10 yellow cards between the start of the season and the second Sunday in April serves an automatic two-match suspension.
Derby and Forest are battling to finish in the play-offs.
The Rams are third in the Championship, 10 points adrift of Burnley in second and seven points ahead of Reading in seventh.
Forest slipped to sixth following their goalless draw against Doncaster Rovers on Saturday.
The Reds are just one point ahead of both Reading and Brighton.