Gary Rowett has told his Derby County side that they will have to battle to secure their place in the Sky Bet Championship play-offs, as they get set to take on Burton Albion at the Pirelli Stadium on Saturday.
Just three points separate the Rams in fifth and ninth-place Sheffield United after the midweek fixtures, although Rowett’s team do still have a game in hand.
Despite contrasting fortunes in the league so far, Rowett believes that his side will have to be at their best to take three points off Nigel Clough’s Burton.
He told RamsTV: “These are the games that you want to be involved in. We’re playing against teams that are either fighting for relegation or promotion.
“If we play to our maximum, we can win any of those games.
“You have to give credit to the teams around us because nobody has given up that fight. We win two games, which we think will be a massive step to where we want to be, but everyone else wins two games.
“That’s the nature of it, we’re Derby County and we have no right to be in the play-offs so we have to fight and show the quality and composure to earn it.”
Rowett knows all about the Brewers, having spent seven years with the club as a player, assistant and manager.
The Derby boss is proud of his achievements with his former club, but he is sure that he won’t allow sentiment to get in the way of business for the Rams.
He recalled: “You turned up on a Tuesday night at St George’s Park, the lads loved training because they had finished their jobs in the daytime and there was a really good spirit.
“We had some good moments and some difficult times in those early days to try and get over that initial period where it looked like we would get dragged into a relegation fight.
“To stay up comfortably and get into the play-offs and then into the final was a brilliant achievement. We could have won the game but we set the team up to win the league the following season.
“I went back for the Hull game the other night and it was like I’ve never been away, but I won’t go back there to show any emotion, we’re there to be professional and we need the points just as much as Burton.”
Ahead of the short trip along the A38 on Saturday, Rowett highlighted some of the key aspects of performance that he expects from his side.
He explained: “We need the three points, it’s a crucial game for us and you can see how much it will to Burton because they will feel that one win can spark their chances of survival.
“We have to be really professional, we will have to play well and we will have to battle and compete really well, because there is absolutely no way that any team playing in a local derby will want to hand points to their opponents.
“We have to make sure that we play our game as well as we can on Saturday.”