Frank Lampard can make flying start to Derby career
Rams in great shape to beat Reading
Sky Bet Championship
Sky Sports Football, 8pm Friday
Derby have attracted lots of ante-post support, shortening from 18-1 to 14-1 to win the Sky Bet Championship title and from 6-1 to 9-2 to go up, and Frank Lampard's men can delight their backers by beating Reading at the Madejski Stadium.
The Rams are one of the bigger fish in the second tier but they gained a reputation as perennial underachievers after failing to come through the playoffs in 2014, 2016 and 2018.
After last season's playoff semi-final failure there were suggestions that the board may have to cut costs, and a quick decision was made by manager Gary Rowett, who left to take over at Stoke.
However, the bold decision to replace Rowett with Lampard was ambitious and has been backed up be some good moves in the transfer market.Lampard has enhanced a decent squad with the loan arrivals of Harry Wilson and Mason Mount and the permanent signings of Jack Marriott and George Evans.
Full Welsh international Wilson and England Under-19 regular Mount joined earlier in the summer and were in the starting line up for last Saturday's encouraging 2-1 victory at home to Wolves.
Matej Vydra – Derby's top scorer last season – has been injured for much of the summer and heavily linked with a transfer to Leeds but the Rams are well-stocked in attacking areas with League One's top marksman in 2017-18 Marriott competing with David Nugent and Cameron Jerome.
Goalkeeper Scott Carson and the back four - Andre Wisdom, Richard Keogh, Curtis Davies and Craig Forsyth – have stayed and there is a nice blend of youth and experience in a deep squad which looks primed for a promotion bid.
Reading went agonisingly close to promotion just over 14 months ago, losing a penalty shootout to Huddersfield in the Championship playoff final.
But they never seemed to recover and were in relegation danger last term until final round of fixtures.
Paul Clement took charge for the final six weeks of the campaign but there was no sudden improvement with the Royals posting two wins, two draws and four defeats.
Reading's supporters fans would have been hoping for some positive news in the transfer market after such a close shave, finishing only three points above the drop zone, however, the squad doesn't look any stronger and may soon be about to weakened further with key centre-back Liam Moore hankering for a move to the Premier League.
Moore sat out last Saturday's 4-0 friendly defeat at home to Crystal Palace and was sorely missed as the Londoners ran riot.
Wilfried Zaha did a lot of the damage (delivering an assist and two goals) and Clement can rest assured that his Reading team will not have to face players of similar calibre in the Championship.
However, Reading look like a club going backwards with relegation a strong possibility.
Clement's charges will be hoping to change the perception with a good result and performance in front of a television audience but Derby are the likelier winners and can send an early message to their promotion rivals.
2pts 7-5 bet365
Leandro Bacuna is back in training but Dave Edwards (knee) faces four to six weeks on the sidelines and Adrian Popa and John O'Shea are doubts with minor injuries.
Matej Vydra (groin) has missed pre-season and is unlikely to feature. Tom Huddlestone (groin) and Chris Martin (abdominal strain) are doubts.
Reading have won three of their last 26 league matches.
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