Clough says Derby County relishing the challenge against high-flying Leicester City
FACING promotion chasers Leicester City tomorrow holds no fears for Derby County, says Nigel Clough.
The Rams manager points to recent performances against Cardiff City, Crystal Palace and Watford as proof that his team can go toe-to-toe with the leading sides in the Championship.
Derby drew at Cardiff and lost by the odd goal to Palace and Watford.
All three clubs are above Leicester in the table.
"Leicester doesn't hold any fears for us," said Clough.
"We went to Cardiff last week, the leaders, and put on a great performance and we were unfortunate to lose against Palace and Watford.
"Our performance at Birmingham last Saturday was not a bad one in lots of ways despite the 3-1 defeat, so we are looking forward to the challenge."
Leicester, like Derby, are not in good form in terms of results.
Derby are without a win since February 2 when they beat Huddersfield Town.
The Foxes have won only one of their last eight matches.
"It's a big game for both teams, Leicester are in their own sticky patch of results," said Clough, who admits the Rams are finding it tough to cope without five of their most influential players.
Clough added: "If you look at our squad and pick six players you wouldn't want to lose, you would say Shaun Barker, John Brayford, Richard Keogh, Jamie Ward, Craig Bryson and Will Hughes – and that is no disrespect to the others.
"You would say those six are the most influential players in our squad.
"To be without five of them is a big, big strain on everybody else."
None of the five have been available for the last two games and there is no indication that Brayford and Hughes will be back any time soon, while Barker has been out for the past year and is not likely to return until October, at the earliest.
"Take five of the most influential players out of any team and it would be tough for that team," said Clough.
"We are having to put young lads in like Valentin Gjokaj and Michael Hoganson, who haven't played before.
"We are not dipping into a squad of experienced professionals here.
"When we have to do it next season, the young players will be that much better for it."