QPR and Derby face off for Premier League spot

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LONDON (AP) - Dubbed the most lucrative match in club football, Saturday’s Championship playoff final between Queens Park Rangers and Derby is staying faithful to its reputation.

The match at Wembley will decide which club will play in the Premier League next season, a spot worth at least 120 million pounds ($202 million) to Derby and at least 80 million pounds ($135 million) to Queens Park Rangers, according to the sports industry group at consultants Deloitte.

Derby is hoping to return to the topflight after a six-year absence while QPR is bidding for an immediate return to the Premier League. Championship winner Leicester and runner-up Burnley have already been promoted automatically.

QPR’s payday would be lower because the club is still benefiting from parachute payments following its relegation last season.

“Over the past decade the value of promotion to the top flight has increased three-fold,” Deloitte consultant Adam Bull said. “This is largely due to the increase in broadcast income and greater parachute payments, both in terms of value and length.”

A victory for Derby would also mark the renaissance of former England coach Steve McCLaren, now in charge of the Rams.

McClaren, who succeeded Sven-Goran Eriksson as England manager in 2006, was fired from the national job after less than two years in charge after the team failed to qualify for the 2008 European Championship.

McClaren has since enjoyed mixed fortunes, coaching teams in England, the Netherlands and the Bundesliga. He started the current season at QPR as an assistant coach to Harry Redknapp before taking over at Derby in September when Nigel Clough was sacked.

Redknapp, who insisted he does not regret having given McClaren a job, said that his difficult spell as England manager did not surprise him.

“He isn’t the first England manager not to get slaughtered, (Bobby) Robson, (Graham) Taylor. It comes with the territory,” Redknapp said. “He is a very good coach, excellent. I don’t regret giving him a job, we always knew he would get a job elsewhere.”

Derby lost 2-1 to QPR in London in November but McClaren’s players got their revenge with a 1-0 win at home earlier this year.

“The benchmark for us this season has been the two games against Queens Park Rangers, for me anyway,” McClaren said. “I suppose that’s because I was there at the start of the season and knew the squad there. The way we finished the season showed that we have belief in ourselves. That is what we need to take to Wembley now and not think too much about everything else.”

Derby are eight games unbeaten and face a QPR side that needed extra-time to overcome Wigan in the playoffs semifinals.

“It’s a massive game: obviously we want to get back in the Premier League and there’s an awful lot at stake,” Redknapp said. “Derby are a good team but we’re a good team as well, a team full of experience so it’s got the ingredients of being a really good match,”

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