Championship football returns to the Madejski Stadium on Friday night as Frank Lampard’s Derby County travel to RG2 hoping to start well against a Reading side who waited till the final day of last season to secure their spot in the second tier of English football.
Derby enter the season having won four out of their five pre-season fixtures, including a 2-1 victory over Premier League new boys Wolves. The Rams should be encouraged by their results in the lead-up to the new season and will be hoping that they can carry this form into their opening game in Berkshire.
Which players should Reading look out for?
Three players that impressed in pre-season were: newbie Harry Wilson, former Leicester City man Tom Lawrence and youngster Max Lowe. Lawrence will be hoping to improve on a slightly below-par 2017-18 season with six goals and seven assists but, after an encouraging pre-season, he will be looking to provide Derby with a serious attacking threat. Max Lowe is the future of Derby and the left-back will hope to have a major role in the team’s pursuit of Premier League football.
Frank Lampard has clearly inherited a talented squad, and has invested in the positions he felt it was necessary. The former Chelsea man has also beaten several Championship clubs to the signature of striker Jack Marriott. The ex-Peterborough United striker found the net 27 times in the league last season, but will the step up affect him?
Lampard has also dipped into the loan market with the signings of Mason Mount and Harry Wilson. Mount scored 14 times and made 10 assists whilst playing for Vitesse Arnhem in the Eredivisie last season and, in my opinion, will be one of the players up for the Championship Player of the Season award come May. Harry Wilson spent the second half of last season in the Championship with Hull City, scoring seven times in 13 appearances.
Lampard has used a 4-3-3 formation throughout pre-season and this is the predicted line-up:
Scott Carson; Andre Wisdom, Richard Keogh, Curtis Davies, Max Lowe; Joe Ledley, Mason Mount, Craig Bryson; Harry Wilson, Jack Marriott, Tom Lawrence.
Three key players for Derby this season will be Curtis Davies, Tom Lawrence and Harry Wilson. Davies signed from Hull City last summer and played the vast majority of Derby’s games at the centre of defence before being awarded the captain’s armband, making the most clearances in the division last year. He would slot into any side at the bottom end of the Premier League and be a key player in every side in the Championship.
Tom Lawrence slightly underachieved last season, especially after his rumoured £7 million move from Leicester. With only six goals, he perhaps didn’t provide the attacking threat that the Rams’ fans were hoping he would, especially from a price tag as steep as his. Derby loanee Harry Wilson was on blistering form in the second half of last season on loan at Hull, scoring seven times in 13 appearances. If he can continue this form into the new season, defences all across the Championship will be quaking in their boots when they see him lining up against them.
One point to mention is that Derby’s most recent arrival, former Reading midfielder George Evans, could potentially make his debut at the place he called home for the past two seasons.
I would like to thank Jacob Hackett (@dcfc_hackett) for providing me with insight of how Derby’s pre-season has gone, the predicted line-up, and who will be pivotal this season for the Rams.