The EFL Championship returns this weekend, and plenty of sides will be hoping to make the jump up to the Premier League. An opening game fixture sees Derby host Reading at Pride Park Stadium. The two sides faced each other without fans post lockdown, with the Rams running out 2-1 winners. Once again, the sides will face each other without fans in the stadiums, but we still expect an equally interesting tactical battle. Both sides have lost key players this summer so will be a slight change in their usual sides. Jayden Bogle made the switch from Derby to Sheffield United. Tyler Blackett joined fellow Championship rivals Nottingham Forest on a free transfer. However, both sides have managed to keep the bulk of their players so do not expect wholesale changes from last seasons preferred starting 11’s.

This tactical analysis will use analysis to highlight the tactics that both sides will use in the game. The tactical analysis will firstly identify the predicted line-ups from both sides. Here, it will briefly use analysis to predict how Derby and Reading will play style-wise. Secondly, the analysis will consider the attacking strengths of Derby. This is because Derby are expected to dominate the game and will therefore be attacking more often. Following up on that, the tactical analysis will consider Readings defensive tactics. Again, this is because the pattern of the game should see Reading defending, so will consider how they can defend and keep Derby out. Finally, the tactical analysis will conclude, briefly recapping the aforementioned points.

Line up

Firstly, the tactical analysis will look at the predicted line-ups. The image below shows how Derby are expected to start.

EFL Championship 2020/21: Derby v Reading- tactical preview- tactical analysis tactics

As the image above shows, Derby is expected to line-up in a 4-2-3-1 formation. The loss of Bogle at right-back will be a major loss as he provides attacking support and width. However, Andre Wisdom is stronger defensively and would allow Duane Holmes greater attacking freedom. The loan signing of Matt Clarke is a welcomed one having impressed on his loan last season. Max Bird will provide defensive cover and legs to the ageing Wayne Rooney, who would be allowed the freedom to dictate from deep. The analysis expects Louise Sibley to start in the 10, but make runs past the striker to stretch the defence. Derby will look to keep the ball and play long diagonals to switch the play quickly before Reading are able to reset.

EFL Championship 2020/21: Derby v Reading- tactical preview- tactical analysis tactics

The tactical analysis will now consider the tactics of Reading. Similarly to Derby, Reading will be expected to start in a 4-2-3-1 formation. John Swift in the number 10 position will be key for Reading. The midfielder was a key creator and the Berkshire side have done well to keep a hold of him following Premier League interest. Last season’s top scorer Yakou Meita will also be key. The winger likes to run in behind without the ball, operating as the modern-day inside forward. Andy Rinomhota and Josh Laurent will be integral to stopping Derby. One of them or both will have to limit the space and time Rooney has on the ball. As games towards the back end of last season showed, the key to stopping Derby dictate the game is stopping the former Manchester United striker. The analysis will now consider Derbys attacking play and tactics.

Sibley’s runs in behind

A key part of Derby’s attacking tactics is the runs of Sibley. The number 10’s movement is extremely clever and he is constantly able to find himself in space in the 10 role. However, his game intelligence allows him to make pentrative runs at the right time. The tactical analysis will highlight how he does this and how this helps Derby during offensice phases of play.

An issue Derby has attacking wise is that none of their strikers likes to run in behind. Martyn Waghorn, who is likely to start, likes to come to the ball and link up as a target man. This would allow the Reading defence to push up and squeeze the pitch. This would make it difficult for Derby to play as Reading can get more bodies in the defensive area of the pitch. As a result, Derby need someone who can run in behind and strecth the pitch.

EFL Championship 2020/21: Derby v Reading- tactical preview- tactical analysis tactics

As the image above shows, the striker (Chris Martin) has come short. The defender behind has followed and Sibley looks to exploit it. This massively helps Derby offensively. Firstly, it could force Reading to drop their line ever so slightly. This then gives Martin more space to link-up with the midfield and build-up play. Alternatively, Reading could look to maintain a high line. In that case, they run the risk of being caught out with balls over the deep. With Rooney dictating play from deep, Sibleys runs against a high line could cause serious defensive issues for Reading. Therefore, tactical analysis has shown through analysis that Sibleys runs will be key to penetrating Reading.

Reading‘s press

The tactical analysis will now use analysis to consider how Reading will look to stop Derby playing. As the analysis highlighted, Derby is expected to dominate the game, so Readings defensive play in this game will be key. The analysis will consider a key potential tactic that Reading will employ to counter Derby offensively.

One thing that Reading have done in the championship is press before the opposition gets into their half (as the image below demonstrates). They apply a semi-high press, putting pressure on the opposition centre-backs. The purpose of this of course is to stop teams building-up from deep. It also makes it harder for them to recycle possession against Reading, making it difficult to sustain attacks. Therefore, it is a tactic that we should expect to see against Derby. The analysis will now consider how they can employ effectively this Saturday.

EFL Championship 2020/21: Derby v Reading- tactical preview- tactical analysis tactics

One way that Reading will look to press Derby is by applying pressure to Rooney. Reading will need to close him down at every opportunity if they are going to be able to win this game. They can achieve this by working on zonal pressing. That means the man closest to Rooney is the one who presses. This is more beneficial as opposed to one man marking Rooney. The latter method drags the Reading player out of position, leaving space in behind and making it just as easy for Derby to play out. By pressing zonally, they can stop Rooney from playing as well leaving no gaps in behind the midfield. Therefore, the analysis has highlighted that Reading need to press Rooney when out of possession, and do so in a manner that does not leave space in-behind.


The tactical analysis has highlighted the tactics that both sides are expected to play on the opening weekend. In this fixture, Derby are expected to take control of the game and start the season off in winning fashion. They will dearly miss Bogles attacking play but will hope Wisdom provides greater defensive stability. The fact they have Rooney for an entire season is also a big boost, as they were one of the form sides following his arrival in January. Sibley has been a revelation, and much of Derby’s offensive play will come through him. Whether he receives the ball in the pocket or makes runs in behind, a good performance from the youngster is likely to result in a good performance from Derby.

Reading will travel knowing that it will be a tough game. They have managed to keep a hold of key player Swift. His composure and quality on the ball will be key, and Reading would hope any chance falls to him. The pace of Meita is also a weapon, should Reading look to defend deep and strike on the counter. However, if Reading is to get anything from this fixture, how well they execute their pressing game will be the determining factor. It is a style of play they use, and if they perform it well enough to limit Rooney’s influence and frustrate Derby, they could come away with all 3 points.