So what have you been doing for the past 19 days? The void of summer, hot days spent trying to find a desk fan to precariously perch on your bedside table, hot nights spent rolling around in a puddle of your sweat after search for fan came to nothing. It’s been awful hasn’t it, with nothing to distract you but transfer gossip and Europa League qualifiers.
But now, we have football, worth caring about. If Marcelo Bielsa believes the second tier of English football is too good for him, then it’s certainly good enough for you. Derby County, now led by Frank Lampard, are very much hoping that they will be in the top tier of English football by next May, and absolutely nobody – including Frank – has any idea whether they – or Frank – are good enough. It should be an intriguing story either way.
For what it’s worth Derby have looked quite good in pre-season, winning four of their five matches, including eye-catching wins over Premier League opposition in Southampton and Wolves. The latter game was decided by Mason Mount, the preposterously talented Chelsea loanee, who impressed last season at Vitesse Arnhem, scoring nine times, providing eight assists, and winning the player of the year award. Just 19 years old, this could very easily be his breakthrough season in England. However, Lampard’s biggest summer coup could easily be Jack Marriott, the striker who arrived from Peterborough. If a reported fee of £5m is to be believed, that is an absolute snip.
For all the optimism at Derby, Reading seems to be a club going backwards. They are widely tipped for a relegation struggle, with their best player, centre-back Liam Moore, reportedly wanting out. It did not seem that long ago that they were a force in this division but a miserable 2017-18 has meant expectations are set firmly on survival. Paul Clement, formerly in the Derby dugout, won just two of his eight matches in charge since his appointment in March but that was enough for them to finish 20th.
The thing about the Championship, though, is that it’s very unpredictable. Big money and big names don’t always prosper. Let’s see what happens tonight.
Kick-off: 8pm BST.
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