Gary Rowett believes Derby County’s weekend showdown with Aston Villa will be an intriguing clash between two sides littered with vast Sky Bet Championship experience.
The Rams and the Villains will go head-to-head at Pride Park Stadium on Saturday (3pm kick-off) in a mouth-watering top six clash.
Derby reside in fourth spot in the standings after 21 matches while Villa, having played the same amount of games, are one point and one place below Rowett’s men.
Both squads have Championship know-how and, importantly, an understanding of what is required for being at the top end of the table and fighting for promotion to the Premier League.
Rowett is expecting a cagey encounter as the halfway stage of the season closes in and believes that a degree of patience will be required.
He told RamsTV: “This game will be an interesting one between two good teams although, if I am honest, I think it will be a cagey game and one where everyone, the team and the fans, might need to be patient.
“That’s not because I think Villa won’t come and attack, because I think that they will. I just don’t think it’ll be one of those games that opens up after five or ten minutes.
“I feel that they will be mindful of our pace in the forward areas so they won’t want to give us too much space. We’ll also have the same feelings about them with the quality they have in the attacking third such as Albert Adomah and Robert Snodgrass; they don’t concede many goals and can cause problems for any defence.
“There’s a lot of experience and know-how in the Championship in both squads and I think there are some similarities between us in terms of how we play.”
Rowett’s side have risen to the occasion in big game atmospheres so far this season.
Home wins over Nottingham Forest and Sheffield Wednesday were recorded in October, while the Rams have also claimed impressive victories at the likes of Norwich City, Leeds United and Middlesbrough in recent months.
However, he is keen to avoid stating that the clash with Villa is an opportunity to ‘put down a marker’; insisting there is no greater emphasis placed on the game as a result of where the clubs sit in the division.
He said: “It is up to us to do what we did to Forest at home, Sheffield Wednesday at home and Middlesbrough away from home. When we play in these big games we usually step up to the plate.
“I know people have spoken about games being a marker in the past; we had it with Middlesbrough for example a few others as well.
“People use those terms regularly but we view every single match that we play as an important one and Saturday is no different in that regard.
“It’s an opportunity for us to put some space between ourselves and them but Villa will also see it as a chance to get above us again. It’s going to be a difficult game, of course, and Steve Bruce, like his squad, has a lot of experience in this division.”
He added: “Our conversation rate is showing that we are creating very good chances and, on top of that, being very clinical. That’s a good sign and we want to keep it going.”
Rowett has also stated that he has been impressed with the way his side has found different ways to achieve results.
Derby’s form since mid-September has seen them rise into the division’s top six and the 43-year-old has made it clear his side need to maintain their standards.
He said: “In our last 11 matches we have won eight and we’ve been in a good period of form.
“We’ve won games in different ways and we need to keep it going; we can’t just turn up and win matches, so we need to make sure we maintain the endeavour that we have.”