Five midfield talents Derby can draft in for injured Will Hughes
Promotion chasers Derby County suffered a significant blow in their opening game, as midfield dictator Will Hughes was stretchered off with an injury, later revealed to be cruciate knee ligament damage.
The England Under-21 international is unlikely to feature again for at least six months, meaning the Rams, 5/1 shouts from Coral to capture the Championship, must find a replacement who can keep the team ticking over in his absence.
“There are not too many players around like him,” said coach Paul Clement, who is 13/8 to help the Rams to a Premier League promotion.
“Can we replace like for like? We are going to look at the possibility of bringing in another midfielder and I think the point is it needs to be a quality midfielder.
“It probably won’t be exactly the same player as Will. Whoever it is will have different qualities and needs to add to the group and not just be a number,” added the Englishman.
Having already splashed the cash this summer, the Midlands men are unlikely to splurge again, so who could come in on the cheap and make a difference to Derby’s Premier League promotion push? Here are Coral experts’ five picks…
Almen Abdi (Watford)
At 28, Abdi would provide an experienced head to work in tandem with the Rams’ young roster, having represented Udinese in Serie A and, more recently, spent three terms in the Championship with the Hornets.
The Switzerland international, like Hughes, can play as a central midfielder or in a more advanced role, and his nine goals last season show he poses plenty of threat.
Despite his heroics for the Hertfordshire club, however, under new coach Quique Sanchez Flores, he did not even make the bench for free-spending Watford’s Premier League opener.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea)
Clement has commented on requiring someone who can be deployed in a two and three-man midfield so, as the new Pride Park boss is unlikely to find someone with composed Hughes’ unique skillset, a box-to-box player would fit the bill.
Luring Lewis Cook or Alex Mowatt from Leeds United would be a pipe dream, but Derby could instead look to snare a future star on loan. The Midlands men have reaped success with young English players recently, so could borrow driven and dynamic Loftus-Cheek from the Blues.
However, the Belgian-born Brazil Under-20 international needs more than just cameos if he is to reach his potential. Calm on the ball and able to produce moments of sublime skill, as well as game-changing goals, the technically-gifted teenager is capable of controlling and conducting for County.
Joao Carlos Teixeira (Liverpool)
Another loan option from the Northwest could be 22-year-old Texeira, who is perhaps less of a risk than Pereira, having proven himself already in England’s second-tier. Taking a stab at Premier League promotion next with Derby would be a further learning curve.
The Reds leased the Portuguese schemer to Brighton and Hove Albion last season, where he struck five and assisted four. More of a direct attacking threat than contemplative Hughes, Teixeira would have to play at the tip of a midfield three, but could also provide cover on the wings.
Jonathan Williams (Crystal Palace)
To loan or to buy, Palace academy product Williams is probably most similar in style to Hughes, though has not developed as expected yet. Once linked to top flight big-guns, the Wales playmaker is way down the pecking order at Selhurst Park.
Injuries stunted the 21-year-olds temporary stints at Norwich City, so a change of scenery could work wonders for Williams, whose deft passing and vision would be well utilised under Clement.