Championship playoff preview: Derby County, QPR play for promotion
Tomorrow, Wembley Stadium will host its last major English match of the season to determine the final spot in next year’s Premier League table.
Queens Park Rangers is looking for a swift return to the top flight after one season down, while the Rams of Derby County is looking to end a seven-year run in the second tier.
With the game at a neutral location, it looks to be a beautiful matchup, given that in both Championship games between these two teams during the regular season, the home side won by 1 goal.
The stories for each side coming into the match are vastly different.
For QPR, promotion would mark a sort of redemption for owner Tony Fernandes, who defied convention and refused to cut much of the already-inflated wage bill despite the typical slash in income that comes with relegation.
Manager Harry Redknapp would also be rewarded for his decision to stick with the club through relegation despite many reports that he would leave in the event the club was sent down. It would be the second time in his career that Redknapp would earn a club promotion to the Premier League, having taken Portsmouth up back in 2003.
Meanwhile, Derby County isn’t looking as much for redemption as much as they are another chance. Having suffered the worst season by any club in Premier League history back in 2007/08, the club would like to dispel those demons once and for all, with promotion just being the first step.
The club was relegated that year with the lowest point total in Premier League history, and matched the 108-year-old dubious record for an English top flight with just one win the entire season.
Manager Steve McClaren is also looking for a bit of vindication. His last trip to Wembley Stadium resulted in a 3-2 loss to Croatia that bounced England from Euro 2008 qualification and sealed his fate as the national team’s manager. He interestingly began the season under Redknapp at QPR but was hired at Derby in September.
This match hasn’t come to us without controversy. QPR player Yun Suk-Young has been caught in the middle of a battle between club and country.
Yun is currently still with his club, and Redknapp has gone on record saying he is available for the match under permission from South Korea, but his country denies those claims, and has said his absence from national team camp is against their wishes. He was scheduled to arrive at camp way back on May 14.
In other player news, QPR’s on-loan Benoit Assou-Ekotto is expected to return from a knee injury that kept him out of both semifinal legs against Wigan, along with Niko Kranjcar.
Neither club has lost since April 19, when QPR fell to eventual Championship winners Leicester City, while Derby has not dropped a match since April 5 at Middlesborough. For more on this match, check out the preview over at Soccerly.com.