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Derby’s spirit and togetherness in the face of adversity this season has been remarkable and without their 21-point deduction they would be sitting safe in 17th in the table.
The fact that they still remain in with a chance of survival is a credit to everyone at the club, but it appears to be too big of a mountain to climb.
Wayne Rooney‘s side seemed to be running out of steam before the international break and they are on a run of one win in seven matches, losing five of those.
A 1-1 draw against Coventry City a fortnight ago gave them something to build on going into the break, but continued uncertainty behind the scenes remains the more pressing issue.
The Rams have only lost three of their 19 home games this season, while 34 of the 46 points that they have earned have come at Pride Park.
Ravel Morrison is a doubt for Derby as he will not return from international duty with Jamaica until Friday, having played and scored against Honduras in the early hours of Thursday.
It could present an opportunity for Luke Plange, who has only been on the bench in the last two matches having started nine of the previous 10 games.
Colin Kazim-Richards is expected to miss the rest of the season after suffering an ankle injury against Blackburn Rovers before the international break.
Preston will hope to have Liam Lindsay available after he suffered an ankle injury against Cardiff before the international break and subsequently missed the humbling against Luton.
Emil Riis Jakobsen could come into the starting lineup after dropping to the bench against the Hatters before being brought on at half time. The striker spent three years on Derby’s books as a teenager but never made a senior appearance.
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Josh Murphy will also be pushing for a start having come off the bench at half time against Luton. He is yet to play from the off in a Preston shirt.
Derby County possible starting lineup:
Allsop; Byrne, Davies, Cashin, Buchanan; Bird, Bielik; Ebiowei, Sibley, Lawrence; Plange
Preston North End possible starting lineup:
Iversen; Lindsay, Diaby, van den Berg; Potts, Johnson, Whiteman, Browne, Murphy; Riis, Archer