Bet of the Day: Huddersfield to beat Derby on Championship return

14th September 2021

The final game of the Championship’s first weekend is an intriguing clash. Home side Huddersfield are back in the second tier after two seasons in which they never really looked like a Premier League side. Opponents Derby, meanwhile, are among the front-runners for promotion, but have flattered to deceive in recent seasons and find themselves starting all over again under the management of Philip Cocu. The former Netherlands international replaces Frank Lampard, whose one season in the Pride Park hot-seat ended in him being head-hunted for the Chelsea job.

Rams fans must be getting tired of wondering whether “this” will be their season. They dropped out of the Premier League in 2008 and, despite a long list of big-name coaches being hired to take them back to the promised land, they are now embarking on a twelfth consecutive season of Championship football. It’s hard to say what their “true” level is: they’ve made the playoffs in four out of the last six seasons. Sixth place last time out was hardly a giant stride (and indicates that Lampard’s move to Chelsea was more guided by emotion than by achievement). Cocu will hope to drive them to greater things, but will first need to deliver stability, and that’s something that has to start this evening in a game which will be trickier than it may appear.

Thin squad could hamstring Rams

As a side that is perpetually seeking promotion to the top division, Derby have classically been one of the bigger-spending clubs in the Championship. However, this summer has seen them do more to cut down squad numbers than add new players. Until last week, when versatile Polish midfielder Krystian Bielik arrived, their sole permanent signing of a first-team level player was bringing in Aberdeen’s Graeme Shinnie. Most of the departures were, to be fair, a clearout of dead wood, but Derby’s run-up to the season has been complicated by a string of injuries that leave their options looking pretty threadbare for their big kick-off.

Those missing tonight include defensive stalwarts Curtis Davies and Andre Wisdom, along with perhaps the club’s most gifted attacking player in Jack Marriott. Huddersfield, for their part, have no pressing injury worries and come into the match with a settled side. Karlan Grant, who looked the part when given first-team opportunities at the end of last season, is flanked in attack by Isaac Mbenza and Adama Diakhaby. With home advantage, and free of the worry over playing against the much better-resourced sides in the Premier League, Paddy Power’s odds of 11/10 on the home side are worth a punt. All the more so, perhaps, given that Cocu already finds himself looking for solutions to that glut of injuries.

A tight battle between well-matched sides

Huddersfield’s total of 16 points from 38 games in last season’s Premier League was one of the lowest ever tallies in the division. The lowest? That would be Derby County in 2008, when they won a single match across the campaign and accumulated just eleven points. Like the Terriers side of last season, Derby were widely accepted to have been promoted “too early” and with a squad ill-equipped to handle the higher level. For Huddersfield, the concern must be that it took Derby until the middle of September to score their first win on their return to the second tier. The Yorkshire side will be keen to avoid that kind of start to this campaign.

Beneficially, one thing that Huddersfield had in their favour over their unexpected two seasons in the top flight is a defensive cohesion Derby lacked. It’s a stability that they retain despite the departure of ‘keeper Jonas Lossl and full-back Chris Lowe, and will make it hard for an underpowered Derby attack to get an attacking foothold. Looking at the odds on total goals, Unibet have a price of 7/10 for there to be fewer than 2.5 scored this evening. The facts make this game look for all the world like a tight, tactical battle, so it’s worth getting on those odds for this evening.

A more expansive Huddersfield side?

Much like the Terriers’ former manager David Wagner, his immediate successor Jan Siewert arrived at the club from a position coaching Borussia Dortmund’s reserves. However, where Wagner adopted a defensive stance, the current coach has stated his desire to develop a more expansive, attacking approach. Last season, the club’s top scorer was Grant, with a total of four goals. For reference, Shane Duffy – who plays in defence for the notoriously goal-shy Brighton and Hove Albion – scored five. While it would be easy to point the finger at Huddersfield’s forwards for their paltry return, the simple fact is that the side didn’t create many chances; Leo Messi would have struggled to crack fifteen goals had he played in this side.

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