Derby County are hoping that they can convince Frank Lampard to remain with them although will not stand in his way if Chelsea finalise talks over appointing him as their new manager.According to sources familiar with Lampard’s situation at Derby, Rams owner Mel Morris has been delighted with the work the 40-year-old has done at Pride Park and is even planning to offer him a new deal to stay put.With Lampard in charge, Derby came close to securing a place in the Premier League for the 2019-20 season, narrowly losing 2-1 to Aston Villa in the play-off final at Wembley. Article continues below Editors’ Picks ‘There is no creativity’ – Can Solskjaer get Man Utd scoring freely again? ‘Everyone legged it on to the pitch!’ – How Foden went from Man City superfan to future superstar Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? And the former Chelsea midfielder continues to be the front runner to replace Maurizio Sarri, with early talks having already taken place.Despite attempting to extend his contract, Derby are not expected to stand in Lampard’s way if the Blues firm up their interest and press ahead with talks to appoint him as their new manager.The Premier League club will, however, have to pay £3.5 million to buy him out his contract at Derby should they finalise a move for their legendary former player, with Sarri now all set to join Juventus.The Serie A champions have pushed hard to complete a deal for the Italian, with the west Londoners due to net between £2.7m and £4.5m in compensation.Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia held face-to-face talks with Juve sporting director Fabio Paratici in London last week over a two-day period and the Turin giants believe they’ve made decisive progress to secure Sarri.The likes of former Juve boss Massimiliano Allegri, Ajax head coach Erik ten Hag, Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo, Watford’s Javi Gracia and ex-Paris Saint-Germain head coach Laurent Blanc have all been considered for the top job at Stamford Bridge.However, Lampard is the favoured candidate as the Blues prepare to have to deal with a two-window transfer ban, likely meaning they will need to make more use of their loanees and youth players in the 2019-20 season.Chelsea opted not to ask for a freeze of the ban to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) after they were punished for misconduct in the transfers of under-18 overseas players.The decision to not ask for provisional measures is thought to be a strategic one as the Blues continue to deny wrongdoing and have appealed the ban as a whole. Their judicial hearing isn’t, however, going to be heard in time for them to sign new players.Elsewhere at the club, Willian has not yet signed a new two-year deal despite what has been reported in the media, with the winger focusing on his commitments with Brazil at Copa America and no announcement imminent.
The Big Ten season is still more than a month away, but the early season tournaments that prepare the Ohio State softball team (7-3, 0-0) for the grind of conference play are starting to heat up. The OSU softball team travels to Cathedral City, Calif., on Friday to participate in the Mary Nutter Classic, where it will play five games over the weekend, two against ranked opponents (No. 11 LSU and No. 14 Arizona, both on Friday). “The Mary Nutter Classic is one of the premier tournaments every year, so of course the girls are excited,” said first-year coach Kelly Kovach Schoenly. “We’re going to play some ranked opponents … but the game doesn’t know who’s ranked, so you just have to go out there and play it.” The tournament comes about a week after OSU’s participation in the Jacksonville University Tournament, which saw the unranked Buckeyes go 3-2 on the weekend, including a 1-0 upset of No. 16/17 Louisville. “We came out strong,” said sophomore outfielder Taylor Watkins. “We should have beat some teams, but we did our best and stuck together in all the situations we were put in.” The biggest news from the weekend in Jacksonville was the emergence of sophomore pitcher Alex DiDomenico. The 5-foot-9 right-hander from Youngstown, Ohio, completed 15 innings for the weekend, holding batters to a .130 average. Her four-hit, eight-inning shut-out of Louisville was the centerpiece to a weekend that saw her named Big Ten Pitcher of the Week on Monday, her first such honor. “I was really happy about it,” DiDomenico said. “I was shocked actually, but I mean, it felt really good.” Her coach echoed the Big Ten’s praise. “I think Alex has grown a lot in the last six months,” Schoenly said. “When she hits her spots, she can have a lot of success, and I think it’s a really big confidence boost for her.” The Buckeyes sport a 2-1 record against ranked foes on the year. Their single defeat was a 6-1 loss against then-No. 8 Georgia on Feb. 8 in Athens, Ga., a defeat they avenged the next day with a 5-4 win. “The competition is what I’m really looking forward to,” DiDomenico said. “I think it will be a good experience … we’re just working to get better. We can never get too good.” Visit www.thelantern.com for the rest of this story. The Buckeyes are using these early season tests as measuring sticks as they head toward the Big Ten season, which for them begins on March 22 at home against Indiana. “It shows us who we can beat and how good we are and what we need to work on,” Watkins said. “It shows us that we can play against those ranked teams.” While OSU knows these early season games are valuable learning tools, the team knows the real test begins once conference play starts. Schoenly is focused on keeping the team concentrated on the present and getting better each day as conference season looms. “We fully expect to be better a month from now than we are now, because we’re better now than we were a month ago,” Schoenly said. “If they just keep buying into the fact that we need to continue to get better as the season goes on, we’ll be ready when conference season comes.” The Mary Nutter Classic begins Friday and ends Sunday. OSU is scheduled to play No. 11 LSU, No. 14 Arizona, California Polytechnic State University, San Diego State and Utah on the weekend.