Dundee Utd v Dundee: Things to look out for in the derby

By Richard WintonBBC Sport Scotland
Scottish Premiership: Dundee Utd v Dundee
Venue: Tannadice Date: Sunday, 19 September Time: 12:00 BST
Coverage: Listen to commentary on Sportsound and follow live text updates on the BBC Sport website & app

More than five years have passed since one of the greatest days in Dundee's recent history and one of the worst in Dundee United's.

The 'Doon Derby' at Dens Park in May 2016 was the last top-flight meeting of the two sides, a game in which the hosts came from behind to officially - and gleefully - condemn their city rivals to an inevitable relegation.

Sunday will bring the next Premiership iteration of the rivalry at a throbbing Tannadice after a handful of League Cup and Championship scraps in the intervening years.

United had the upper hand in those five contests, winning three and losing one, but what will be the key issues when the derby is played out on a grander stage this weekend?

Short journey, long winless run for Dundee

It has been 17 years since Dundee last won down the road, Steve Lovell and John Sutton scoring in a 2-1 top-flight win under Jim Duffy.

And the 10 meetings at Tannadice since have ranged from unfortunate to unspeakable for the Dens Park side, with United giving them six on two chastening occasions and rattling in three on a couple of others.

"I think it is hanging over our heads," said manager James McPake, a man with his own painful derby backstory given he smashed up his knee in one particular skirmish.

"I am not going to stand here and lie... we want to be the Dundee team that breaks that. That is the carrot for us."

Can Courts use derby to bolster reputation?

While McPake is a veteran of these matches, both as player and manager, United counterpart Thomas Courts will be experiencing the febrile, mind-scrambling contest for the first time.

The 40-year-old's appointment in the summer was met with a degree of scepticism, but a derby win would further upholster a quietly encouraging start to his tenure and enhance his standing among the supporters.

Perhaps more pertinently, it would also cleave open a seven-point gap between the sides and keep United among the pack in the middle of the division.

"We are the club that holds the upper hand in recent history and that is something we are looking to maintain," Courts said.

"Dundee will be well aware they are without a victory in the league and we could easily have been on double figures in terms of points, which is testament to the way we are playing. The fact we are disappointed with that, for me, is progress."

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Will big names shine on big occasion?

Uncertainty still surrounds the involvement of Dundee totem Charlie Adam, who has been choking to play in the derby since joining his boyhood team, but there are no shortage of feted figures in the squad. Indeed, long-serving midfielder Paul McGowan described it as the best he has been part of in his seven years at Dens.

Leigh Griffiths last weekend made his first appearance since returning from Celtic on loan and will likely make his derby debut, and fellow forward Jason Cummings could find himself in the same position, with both having thrived in similar contests before.

"We certainly have the players to play in these types of games," said an emboldened McPake. "I think almost everybody has played in some sort of derby - the Old Firm, in the Dundee derby, massive play-off games for this club only a few months ago.

"You need to handle the occasion because it can get the better of people, but we fully believe we have got a squad of players with the right mentality and character to go down there and get a positive result."

How will United resolve goalkeeping dilemma?

McPake indulged in a little mischief-making over the past few days, making play over the fact Courts has a decision to make over who he starts in goal.

Does he continue with Northern Ireland international Trevor Carson? Or bring back Benji Siegrist - widely regarded as one of the best in the league - after a knee injury? It's hardly a choice between two error-prone kids, but there will be some scrutiny over which is given the responsibility on Sunday.

Not that Courts is showing any sign of being ruffled by McPake's mind games. "It is a great problem to have and a nice, positive challenge for me to have in my first derby," he said.

"Out of respect for them, it is a tough decision, but I pride myself on being decisive and I am more than comfortable making a big decision for the sake of the team."

Emotional occasion for the city

A statue commemorating iconic former United manager Jim McLean will have its first public showing outside Tannadice on Sunday, and a capacity crowd of around 13,000 will be asked to pay their respects with a minute's applause.

For all that, McLean - who died in December - is the key architect of United's history, he also spent time at Dens and played a significant role in the modern identity of the city.

In their more reflective moments, even some Dundee fans might concede that his achievements in continental competition gave their town a wider identity and showed that people like them could go and make their mark on the world.

"He put United on the European and global map, so I feel privileged and honoured to manage this club because of what he achieved before me," said Courts. "You feel his legacy every day."

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