‘Weak’ Derby County still a tough task for Hartlepool United

Derby County's Darren Bent .
Derby County's Darren Bent .

Sam Collins admits Hartlepool United will face a huge task in the FA Cup - even if Derby County ring the changes.

The Rams will start as overwhelming favourites for the attractive third-round tie at Victoria Park on Saturday.

Derby have a big squad and can make changes without weakening team

Sam Collins

Derby are favourites for promotion to the Premier League and are the leading scorers in the Sky Bet Championship.

But County boss Paul Clement is likely to make a number of alterations to his starting XI.

While Pools have been inactive over the festive period, County have been busy boys with three league games in the space of eight days.

With a Championship match with Reading on Tuesday, Clement is set to rest a number of players.

The former Real Madrid head coach is unlikely to be too dramatic - Derby came a cropper at Portsmouth in the Capital One Cup earlier in the season after wholesale changes.

Defenders Chris Baird, Alex Pearce and Ryan Shotton could come in, with former Sunderland striker Darren Bent and ex-Villa attacker Andreas Weimann also likely starters.

There could also be a debut for Hartlepool-born keeper Jonathan Mitchell, who has been on the Rams bench for the past month.

“Paul Clement has the luxury to make changes if he wants to,” Collins told SportMail.

“Derby have a big squad and if he wants to make two or three changes, or whatever, without weakening his team then he can.

“Me and Ronnie watched them at Leeds, where they drew 2-2 after Christmas.

“They have good players and a very good squad, as you can see by where they are in the table.

“We are playing a club who spent £20 million in the summer and are going to spend again before this transfer window closes.

“We are going to have to be well-organised, make ourselves hard to beat and look to see if we can cause them some problems going the other way.”

Given Pools will be rank outsiders, Collins says there is “no pressure” on Ronnie Moore’s side.

Even if Pools go out, it has proved a successful FA Cup run, financially in particular given the two televised matches against Salford City on top of £100,000 in prize money.

“We can go out and enjoy it and look to give a good account of ourselves,” said Collins.

“There is no pressure on us, but that’s not to say that the result does not matter.

“We want to put in a strong performance and show people how good we can be.”