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Ex-Derby County star Robbie Savage predicts tough midfield battle for Rams at Wembley

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: May 22, 2014

Derby County Rams v Coventry City at Pride Park Stadium..Robbie Savage

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FORMER Derby County skipper Robbie Savage believes the Championship play-off final battle will be won in midfield.

And Savage, now a TV and radio pundit, says the Rams have the edge over Queen’s Park Rangers.

The two sides go head-to-head in Saturday’s promotion showdown at Wembley and Savage is tipping Derby to reach the Premier League.

“Derby’s midfield is a strong point,” said Savage, who will be at Wembley covering the match for BBC Radio Five Live.

“I think the way Derby’s runners bomb on from midfield will trouble Rangers. They might have too much legs for Rangers.

“I covered the game between Derby and Rangers at the iPro Stadium in February. Derby won 1-0 and I thought Rangers looked pedestrian.

“Derby have youthfulness in terms of without the ball, and football is about what you do with the ball and without it.”

Rams head coach Steve McClaren uses a midfield trio in a 4-3-3 formation.

George Thorne, on loan from West Bromwich Albion, fills the holding role.

Craig Bryson, 16 goals from midfield and a regular starter all season, is expected to be in the midfield trio, leaving Jeff Hendrick and Will Hughes vying for the third spot.

Savage would select Hendrick ahead of Hughes at Wembley.

“Will Hughes is a terrific talent,” said Savage, a midfielder who played more than 600 games in his career and was capped 39 times by Wales.

“Hughes was named in the Championship team of the year and although he has had a few niggling injuries, he came back in and did well against Brighton in the play-off semi-final second leg.

“But in this one-off game I would go with Jeff Hendrick’s power and running.

“If Chris Martin can unsettle QPR’s two centre backs, then Derby’s midfielders can make an impact as can Johnny Russell and Jamie Ward in the wide areas.

“Joey Barton was outstanding for QPR in their second leg against Wigan, but I’m not sure who is going to play alongside him in their midfield.”

Savage dismisses suggestions that Derby’s young team might freeze on the day against QPR’s greater experience.

“I don’t think they will freeze. What have they got to lose? So why would they freeze?” said Savage.

“I think QPR will have most possession with their experience but Derby have the running power.

“The pressure is on QPR despite the fact Derby finished one place above them in third.”

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