Phillip Cocu says Derby County’s Sky Bet Championship fixture against Reading this weekend is another ‘very important’ one for his side.
Derby will take on the Royals at Pride Park Stadium on Saturday 27th June (1pm kick-off) in their first home match since the resumption of the 2019/20 campaign following the COVID-19 outbreak.
Cocu’s side returned to action just over a week ago with a 3-2 victory at Millwall, thanks to a hat-trick from youngster Louie Sibley, to record a third successive league win.
Derby sit 12th in the table and are just three points adrift of the top six with eight games left to play in the season.
Six of the Rams’ remaining fixtures are against sides above them in the league table and Cocu believes the meeting with the Royals is another key game.
Speaking to RamsTV, Cocu said: “It is a very important game for us; we had a good start against Millwall last week, we needed it, but with only eight matches left we have a big challenge ahead of us.
“If we want to close the gap on the teams above us, we know we have to win again at home. It is the only way forward for us.
“The spirits are high in the team, with some confidence too, and we know that if we can play like we did last week we will give ourselves a chance to get a good result.”
Cocu added: “I said it last week; the first three games after the restart are important for us. We have Reading and Preston coming up; we have something to fight for and we will.
“We all know every game is a challenge, with no easy opponents. We have to focus on one game at a time, you cannot think too far ahead, and we need to give all our energy to try and win this weekend.”
After an inconsistent first half of the season, Derby’s results and performances have been improved since the Christmas period to help edge the Rams up the table.
Cocu has made it clear that if his side are to remain in good form, they need to continue to put in the hard yards both in training and matches.
The Derby boss said: “We have some consistency which we have worked hard for, with the players and staff, to get on a good streak with the results and performances.
“When you are on a positive run and results come your way, you have to work hard in training and matches to keep it going. We need to keep getting these victories and this is what we are working for.”
Saturday’s fixture against Reading will Derby’s first behind-closed-doors-game on home turf and Cocu has urged the Rams’ supporters to respect the rules and remain away from Pride Park.
“It is a new situation to play at Pride Park Stadium with no fans, but we will give everything to make them proud at home,” Cocu said.
“We want our fans to stay safe and watch the game on RamsTV, as we all know everyone has to stay away from the stadium.”