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Derby County didn’t finish their pre-season schedule in quite the manner they would have wanted to but they remain one of the favourites for promotion and given the state of play on Wearside right now, I cannot believe that they are outsiders to win this game.
Rowett’s appointment has lifted the club and a strong start here on the opening day should set the tone for the long season that lies ahead.
The ex-England ‘keeper has tons of experience and will enjoy another season as no.1.
Cyrus Christie’s replacement will want to start off with a bang and probably won’t have too much to worry about at the Stadium of Light.
One of two recruits from Hull in pre-season, Davies retains top level ability and will prove to be an astute acquisition.
Had a better season last year than some have given him credit for and can carry on here from where he left off last term.
Another season as first choice left-back beckons and I think Rowett will want more from him going forward. A few assists from left-back would not go amiss if the club are to take the leap into the top two of this division.
The former Hull City man has returned and comes back as a more experienced and rounded player. Still capable of playing the Premier League, Huddlestone could make Derby tick and if he stays fit, he could be crucial this season.
The midfielder has plenty of experience now and should quietly go about his job in this division. He remains capable of helping his side gain promotion.
A little like Anya on the other side, Blackman probably isn’t thought of by Rowett as the long term answer in this position but is a decent stop gap after the loss of Tom Ince.
He might be given the chance to perform in his preferred position down the middle, supporting the front man.
The former Watford man may be entrusted to play on the opening day, with Johnny Russell also fighting for this position.
Back at the club now and ready to show his worth, the striker may not be prolific but is a good no.9 and can bring Derby’s other attackers into play.