Phillip Cocu believes there are plenty of reasons to be positive as Derby County prepare for another big week of Sky Bet Championship action.
Derby head to Cardiff City tonight in a key match in the race for the play-off places with three games left to play (7:45pm kick-off).
After that, the Rams welcome automatic promotion chasing Leeds United to Pride Park Stadium on Sunday (2pm kick-off) in their final home fixture of the league campaign.
Tonight’s clash with Cardiff is a big opportunity for the Rams to close the gap on the Bluebirds, who currently occupy the fourth and final play-off spot.
A win for Derby would see them go level on points with their opponents and place several others in serious contention for a top six spot.
Cocu’s side, having won three and drawn one of their first four games after the resumption of the season in June following the COVID-19 outbreak, go into the game off the back of successive losses for the first time in 2020.
A 2-0 defeat to second-placed West Bromwich Albion last Wednesday was followed by a 3-1 loss at home to Brentford, who are third in the table, on Saturday.
The Derby boss is, however, upbeat as ever and believes his side need to build on the positives displayed in recent weeks and shore up from a defensive point of view.
If they can do that, Cocu remains confident his side can return to winning ways.
“There are reasons to be positive,” Cocu told RamsTV.
“We know that if we play a good game of football, it is likely we will score so we just have to focus and be more solid on the defensive part of the game to get a good result.
“I think if you look at how we played the game against Brentford on Saturday, there was positive stuff in the game.
“The reaction after we conceded an early goal was good. We took the initiative, pushed them back, created chances and scored a good goal so I think that part of the game was pretty good.
“We know we have made some sloppy mistakes and unnecessary ones, so we have to focus and especially when the opponent gets a corner or a free kick; Cardiff are very effective in those moments of the game. “
Cocu admits the game is one that both sides need three points from.
The Dutchman says his side need to show plenty of focus if they are to nullify Cardiff’s attacking threats and stamp their own authority on the match.
Cocu said: “Both teams will need a win with three games left to keep pushing for a play-off spot.
“They are one of the more direct playing teams and are dangerous from set plays. They have a midfield with a lot of physical power, a lot of runs in behind and anticipating on passes to their striker and pick up second balls, so we must be really focused on that part of the game.
“We need to pick up second balls, keep our defensive shape and then it’s up to us when we have the possession then we try to play our own game.”