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Derby vs. Watford: Will the Hornets sting the Rams in this battle of promotion hopefuls?

02 Apr | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Derby vs. Watford: Will the Hornets sting the Rams in this battle of promotion hopefuls?

The home side narrowly missed out on the Premier League last season, but it’s the visitors who are in better form going into this clash

Do you know which is the most competitive league in European football?

The Premier League? Guess again. La Liga? No chance. Ligue Un? Nope. The Bundesliga? Wrong again.

For title race excitement this season, nothing beats the Championship. As we head in April, a mere six points cover the top six, with the top four covered by just three points. None of the other divisions in any of the major football powers can match that.

It is hardly surprising given that the prizes for coming top of this particular class are so lucrative. The season is much like one of those Cannonball Run movies from the 1980s – a whole bunch of impoverished wannabes chasing the million-dollar prize at the end of the rainbow.

And what a prize: last season’s promoted clubs were guaranteed a staggering £134MILLION – even if they are relegated after just one season in the Premier League.

One team that came agonizingly close to those incredible riches last year is Derby County.

Playing with style and purpose and with a man advantage after Gary O’Neil had been sent off for QPR in thr play-off final at Wembley, the Rams looked to be heading for promotion until substitute Bobby Zamora came on and scored a 90th minute winner for Rangers to send them to the top flight and leave Derby stunned – and with no time to hit back.

But Rams boss Steve McClaren clearly did not allow his players to dwell on it and they currently sit in fifth and are heading for another play-off spot – at least.

This Friday they host Watford who are five points and three places above them in the table, and right in the title mix.

Under the ownership of the Italian Pozzo family, the Hornets have overcome a messy start to the season which saw them have four different head coaches in little more than a month.

Beppe Sannino left the club at the end of August amid rumours of player unrest, despite having won four of the first five games of the season. His successor Oscar Garcia resigned with health problems at the end of September, then Billy McKinaly took over and lasted just a week before he was sacked and replaced with Slavisa Jokanovic.

It seems to have been a good decision. Heading into the final two months of the season, Watford look set for their best season since they too suffered play-off final heartbreak back in 2013.

They are certainly in good form having won ten of their last 14 games – helped by skipper Troy Deeney’s hot streak that has seen him bang in eight goals in the last nine.

Watford’s recent record is in stark contrast to Derby’s, who have won just two of their last 11. McClaren said he was “angry, frustrated and shocked” after their last defeat at Wolves, so he will be looking for a positive reaction from Darren Bent, Will Hughes and co on Friday.

Based on the form guide, you’d be brave to bet against the Hornets stinging the Rams – but then again, in the Championship, anything can happen.