To use the term ‘Galacticos’ would be pushing it but both clubs, each hotly fancied for promotion this season from the Championship, certainly possess some stellar players for this level.
Tom Ince, Andreas Weimann, Darren Bent, Stewart Downing and David Nugent were among the star names on display on Tuesday night but it was Kike and Johnny Russell who hit the headlines with the goals.
It looked like Kike’s 16th-minute strike would see all three points return to Teesside as Derby dominated possession but failed to create openings.
Bu, with two minutes remaining, substitute Russell struck the equaliser to preserve Clement’s unbeaten record as Rams head coach in the league. However, the 43-year-old is also still without a win after three matches in charge.
Clement, who followed Carlo Ancelotti to Real in 2013 when the Italian replaced Jose Mourinho – Karanka’s mentor – as the man in charge at the Bernabeu, saw his team make an assured start.
Derby dominated possession during the early stages and had the first effort at goal after six minutes.
Jeff Hendrick showed good feet to retain the ball and exchanged passes with Ince before getting off a shot from just outside the area that Dimi Konstantopoulos had to beat away diving to his right.
The Rams continued to knock the ball around confidently, without really threatening, but it was somewhat against the run of play when Middlesbrough took the lead with their first noteworthy attack.
George Friend’s shot from inside the box was deflected into the path of Kike, who curled a left-foot finish away from Scott Carson from the corner of the six-yard area.
The Spanish striker, who scored two goals against Bolton on Saturday, nearly had another double shortly afterwards but his header from a deep Downing cross from the left dropped agonisingly wide of the far post.
A two-goal deficit would have been extremely harsh on Derby and they did not panic after falling behind, maintaining their possession-based style.
Chris Martin stretched to reach a Stephen Warnock cross but his header lacked control and looped harmlessly over the crossbar.
Despite losing Jamie Hanson and then Hendrick to injury late in the first half, replaced by Ryan Shotton and Russell respectively, Clement’s side finished the opening period strongly and would have gone into the break level but for a super fingertip save from Konstantopoulos to keep out Ince’s curling free-kick.
The second half took much the same shape as the first as Derby were largely kept at arm’s length as they searched for the equalising goal.
Middlesbrough occasionally looked a threat on the break and Carson had to help a shot from Kike over the crossbar on the hour mark.
Worryingly for the hosts they were struggling to create an opening and Clement’s last throw of the dice saw him introduce Bent in the 72nd minute, with Weimann making way.
Konstantopoulos smothered a glancing header from Martin right on his goal-line as Derby came close with eight minutes left.
The Rams were encouraged by that and, with two minutes remaining, Russell pounced to lash home the ball from eight yards out from Shotton’s long punt into the penalty area.