Phillip Cocu believes there’s a positive mood around the Derby County camp in the lead-up to this weekend’s Sky Bet Championship clash at local rivals at Nottingham Forest.
The Rams will make the journey across Brian Clough Way on Saturday lunchtime (12:30pm kick-off) for their final fixture ahead of the third international break of the season.
Derby will go into the local derby encounter at the City Ground off the back of a fourth successive home win last weekend.
Tom Lawrence scored both goals as the Rams defeated Middlesbrough 2-0 at Pride Park Stadium and Cocu believes his squad are in good spirits.
He has also admitted that having a big game prior to the international break is something he views as a positive and he’s looking forward to the sell-out clash at the home of Derby’s rivals.
“Winning is always a good feeling but sometimes it feels better when it’s such a big game,” Cocu said when speaking to RamsTV.
“We are not worrying about motivation or having the right attitude because it’s such a big game coming up.
“The mood is positive. I like to play a big game before the international break because I know the players will be focused on the game on Saturday and not almost travelling to their countries to play international games.”
He added: “It will be a tough match, of course. It is normal because it’s a big game. Everything around it; the media attention, the fans and the rivalry gives it all that little edge.
“I’ve noticed it in the players at the start of the week. Normally the build-up is on Thursday and Friday ahead of a game, but this week has been different.”
Cocu played in big games and local derbies during his illustrious playing career at the highest level.
For PSV Eindhoven he was part of many crunch encounters against Ajax, while in Spain he played in one of the biggest derbies in the world for Barcelona against Real Madrid.
He said: “Personally, I loved playing in the big games.
“Maybe at the beginning of your career, you have to try and find a way to cope with the pressure of these games but the moment you have dealt with it in a good way, the big games were liked.
“We now have good energy, good dynamic and positive feeling in the team. The football is getting better so it’s a perfect moment for us to travel and get a result in this game.”
Derby sit 15th in the Championship table with 21 points to their name.
However, they are just four points away from Forest in fifth place and Cocu is eyeing more consistency from his side.
“We need a result to climb up the table and we have the ambition to be higher up in the league,” he said.
“If you look at the team we have, we have to be capable of making some steps and that’s about finding consistency in the games that we play and the attitude that we show.”