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Derby can end Fulham's Premier League hopes

Sky Bet Championship playoff semi-final second leg
Sky Sports Football & Main Event, 7.45pm 

Fulham slipped up as favourites in last season’s Sky Bet Championship playoffs, suffering a shock exit to Reading in the semi-finals, and their backers could have their fingers burnt a second time as Derby are capable of avoiding defeat at Craven Cottage.

A defensive masterclass from Gary Rowett's Rams gave them a 1-0 lead to take to the capital and they look value to produce another gutsy performance and book their place at Wembley.

The Cottagers bossed possession in the opening leg at Pride Park but were limited to just two shots on target and lacked ideas in the final third against a deep Derby backline.

Switching to a three-man defence has been the making of the Rams and their tactical tweak has paid dividends, including the clean sheet against Fulham, who failed to score for the first time in 20 matches.

Skipper Curtis Davies was given the tough task of marshalling the powerful Aleksandar Mitrovic but he did his job well and if the Rams can defend with the same authority Fulham will have their work cut out.

Derby were a constant threat on the counter too, with the pace of winger Tom Lawrence and the movement of leading marksman Matej Vydra causing problems, and Rowett will be looking to hit the hosts with fast and direct attacks again.

The physical presence of Cameron Jerome, the goalscorer at Pride Park, provides a different threat and, if Fulham commit too many bodies forward in pursuit of an equaliser he could punish them.

The Cottagers have been a formidable force at home all season, winning 12 of their last 14 league games, but the visitors have peaked for the playoffs and a 3-1 win at home to Cardiff and a 1-1 draw at Aston Villa in April show they have what it take to stall the Championship's elite.

Rowett's men have been inconsistent on their travels this term but their only away defeat against the division's top eight came at champions Wolves and they tend to raise their game against better opposition.

Derby have lost just one of their last seven meetings with Fulham and they can extend that record.

Recommendation
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Match in Focus

19:30 TODAY ELEV

Sampdoria v Sassuolo

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • Sassuolo are unbeaten in their last three against Sampdoria
Expert verdict
Sampdoria have the best defensive record this season in Italy, conceding just four goals in all competitions but they may struggle to beat a decent Sassuolo side. Samp's top scorer Gregoire Defrel will no doubt be eager to notch against his former club, although Sassuolo's only defeats this season have come at Juventus and Napoli and at home to Milan.