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November 9, 2012 / ultrafox1963

The clash neither side dare lose

City celebrate Jermaine Beckford’s demolition of Forest last season

This weekend, Leicester City host East Midlands neighbours Nottingham Forest in their biggest challenge to date of the current Championship season.

It is the latest instalment of a rivalry between the region’s two premier cities which dates back centuries. Leicester backed the republican cause during the English Civil War and has endured the reprisals ever since. Many organisations, including local television channels, have preferred to use Nottingham as their preferred regional base, despite Leicester being larger in terms of population.

During the 1960s, encounters between City and Forest were among the most intense in English club football, as indicated by the arrest counts that often accompanied them. However the subsequent emergence of Coventry City and Derby County as alternative rivals among sections of the respective fan bases has helped to soften the enmity that previously existed. Nevertheless, the odious racial abuse regularly directed at Foxes on visits to West Bridgford indicates that the passions still generated in Leicester by this fixture are far from unrequited.

Whether the recent takeover of Forest by Kuwaiti businessmen will help to lessen this form of antagonism remains to be seen. But one indisputable consequence of the change of ownership has been the significant strengthening of a side which last season proved a poor relation to Leicester and Derby. Forest spent much of the campaign fighting relegation before eventually finishing 19th. Defeats by both the Rams and Foxes played a key role in the departures of managers Steve McClaren and Steve Cotterill.

With Cotterill’s former assistant Sean O’Driscoll now in charge, and no fewer than a dozen new players recruited, expectations rose among the Forest fanbase of a promotion challenge rose. But home defeats by Derby and Millwall have stalled progress and Forest currently lie 11th in the table, below both of their regional rivals.

Their hosts will be in a far from complacent mood, though. Having risen to the top of the Championship with some of their best performances in years, Nigel Pearson’s side have also spluttered in recent weeks, picking up just a single point from their last three games.

Although Forest have a dismal record at Filbert Way, failing to score on five of their six previous visits, the firepower in their squad will give them hope of an improvement. City captain Wes Morgan, a former Forest stalwart, will need to continue his excellent form in order to repel this threat.

A win for either side would rekindle their promotion challenge, while creating further uncertainty and despair among their opponents. The outcome is likely to depend on which team will be first to conquer the nerves and apprehension that currently hang over both camps.

One feature which will unite the sides is the use of poppy emblems on specially-made shirts to mark the annual weekend of remembrance. Leicester pioneered this practice in 2003, their last season in the top flight, and it has subsequently been adopted by clubs at all levels of the game, as well as the England national side.

Such an occasion may help to take some of the heat out of the exchanges between these ancient adversaries.






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