Derby County vs Reading preview: How to watch, team news and ones to watch
Photo by Alex Livesey / Getty Images

Phillip Cocu's Derby welcome Veljko Paunović's Reading side as the Championship season finally kicks back off again. Cocu will be pleased to have had a full pre-season with his Derby side after the short amount of time he had after being appointed last season. 

Paunović has only recently taken the helm at the Royals after previously being with Chicago Fire in the MLS. He will be hoping to guide the club to a much better finish than last season. 

Key Battle - ones to watch

The key battle in this game will be Max Bird against Ovie Ejaria in midfield. Bird had a breakout season last term in the holding role for the Rams and became a revelation amongst supporters. 

He will be faced with the task of keeping Reading talisman Ejaria quiet. Ejaria joined Reading permanently in the summer after a successful loan spell last season, he is quick and agile with a great eye for a pass. 

If Bird can keep the attacking midfielder quiet then Derby may well be in for an easy day at the office but if Ejaria manages to get into full rhythm, Reading could take home the spoils. 

Previous Meeting

​​​The previous meeting between the two sides ended as a fiery encounter. The Rams scored two goals in quick succession at the end of the first half with Tom Lawrence scoring with a delicate finish into the top corner and Wayne Rooney netting a spot kick to put Derby two up at half time.

The lead was halved in the second half when Andy Rinomhota scored after a mistake from then on-loan Derby goalkeeper Ben Hamer

The game ended on a sour note as Lawrence and Matt Miazga both saw red after clashing at the final whistle, both earning themselves three-match bans in the process. 

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Team News

Derby will still be without Polish international Krystian Bielik, who is still recovering from a knee injury which has kept him out since January. 

The Rams will also be without forward Martyn Waghorn (calf), Wayne Rooney (muscle) and Duane Holmes (hamstring). Winger Lawrence also continues his recovery from a shoulder injury suffered in the final home game of last season against Leeds United

Reading have no fresh injury concerns but will be without influential forward Yakou Meite who had a flurry at the end of the 19/20 season before seeing red against Swansea  City on the final day. 

Manager's Thoughts

Derby manager Phillip Cocu feels his players will be ready for their opening encounter against Reading on Saturday.

I think that the players will be a little bit fresher for this game,” Cocu told RamsTV.

“Regardless of the opponent we faced, in our schedule the first cup game was sort of part of the pre-season because it was so soon after we started the season again.

“The set-up of training has been a little bit different this week than the week before, so players will be fresh to start.

“It will be a difficult game against Reading; they have a good squad and they play, what I have seen until now, is a little bit more when they have the ball than they did last season.”

New Reading boss Paunović expects his players to give nothing but their best for the club while he is in charge. 

"This is just the beginning. It’s a long season. But there is a certain level that must always be reached so we can be competitve day in, day out. And that starts now." he told him the Reading website.

"I have learned a lot from when I have been successful in the past. But I have also learned a lot from when I haven’t been successful, from difficult times.

"Everyone in their career has to learn from the mistakes they have made, and I hope to use those mistakes to help the team and our players to be aware of what to do.

"One thing is guaranteed. I will give my best and I want everyone around me to give their best."

How to watch 

The game will be available for fans to purchase on both club websites, it will be live-streamed via ‘Rams TV’ on the Derby County website and ‘iFollow Royals’ on the official Reading FC website.