Matt Riggs previews Saturday’s SkyBet Championship encounter…
It’s been a good week for the Addicks.
Even the most optimistic of supporters wouldn’t have been able to confidently predict we’d be heading to the iPro Stadium having picked up two victories in two when the season began.
But given that we scored six goals and only conceded one in the pair of games, eight new men enjoyed full debuts of relative success and the fan sofa was also…err…there, it’s safe to say things couldn’t have gone much better.
Most supporters realise, however, that now testing ourselves against the bookies’ favourites to clinch the title is a completely different proposition.
Derby County could only record a goalless draw with Bolton on Saturday – yes – but heading north to face the Rams has not been one of Charlton’s specialities in recent seasons.
Still, with the confidence Guy Luzon’s men will have gained from their previous two matches, you’d like to think this is the perfect time to challenge Paul Clement’s men.
Valley View: A Look at the Addicks
The 2-0 victory over QPR was sweet. After a tough opening 30 minutes, Charlton grew into the game and took control in the second half, scoring two impressive goals while not allowing QPR to get any sort of foothold in the game.
New signings that were on display impressed, the football was exciting and Johnnie Jackson was back in the squad – it was a good day.
Then, Tuesday’s cup win over Dagenham and Redbridge put a gloss on the perfect week, as the Addicks romped to the next round in comfortable fashion. There was second goal of the season for Tony Watt in the 4-1 win, and the mix of players from Saturday’s line-up with youngsters and new purchases made for good watching. Luzon will have been pleased his side got the job done. Onto the next one, as they say.
There will be concerns at the iPro, though, if Watt, who was left on the bench for the opener, is not included in the squad at all. Luzon spoke of a knock for the former Celtic man, and it would significantly hurt Charlton’s chances of picking up a result should he be unavailable.
With Igor Vetokele still absent through injury, and Karlan Ahearne-Grant unlikely to, at a tender age of just 17, lead the line quite how he would like just yet, goals may be hard to come by.
Unless Morgan Fox, after his first senior strike on Saturday, fancies a place up-top, the burden will rest upon Simon Makienok, who did not quite light up the Valley on Saturday. Some nice touches were mixed with an inability to win as much in the air as his size would suggest, but of course, it was his first competitive match in English football. It would be harsh to judge, in great detail, the forward just yet.
Away at Clement’s Derby though, Makienok’s job will be twice as important as holding the ball up and offering his side a breather will be of significant interest to Luzon, and rightly so.
The big Dane must be far more effective in this way on Saturday if Charlton want to get a positive result.
The Opposition: Derby County
Derby have strengthened their already competitive squad this summer, and will undoubtedly be up there again this time around.
The likes of Darren Bent and Tom Ince have, after successful loan spells, signed permanently, while Chris Baird, ex-Charlton Player of the Season Scott Carson, Jason Shackell and Andi Weimann have all arrived to bolster what looks like an experienced, impressive squad.
However much Addicks fans call for an influx of players with Championship experience, Duchatelet has his way of doing things, whereas Derby have done just that.
These players know English football and there are match winners there for Derby. It’s just a question of if new boss Clement, who was formerly a coach at Real Madrid, can get them singing from the same hymn sheet.
Interestingly, though, while Charlton have recorded two wins in two, the Rams are yet to pick one up, as they were beaten by Portsmouth in the Capital One Cup. Let’s hope they’re not quite ready to find their winning mentality just yet.
We’ve met before: Previous Encounters
Since returning to the Championship, all four visits – including one cup encounter – to the iPro have ended in defeat and it will be a hard run to halt.
Having lost only four league matches there last season, Derby are strong at home and, aside from when they cannot prevent Danny Green smashing in 40-yarders, usually dominate matches there.
Addicks fans, though, can take positives from the fact that an early-season encounter with Derby was won last season, with Charlton in a similarly confident mood. The 3-2 win over then Steve McClaren’s side at the Valley was impressive to say the least and had Bob Peeters entering the shortlist for the Charlton hall of fame. We know how that turned out.
But, a replication of that performance wouldn’t go a miss.
So, despite the confident mood of the Charlton camp, it’s not going to be easy. Derby will be hungrier than ever for a victory after a draw and a loss and are a stern test in front of their own supporters.
Charlton stand their best chance with Watt fit and firing and expect the new signings to be unfazed – but it’s difficult to see past the Rams in this one.
Follow Matt on Twitter – @riggsy24