Phillip Cocu says Derby County’s Sky Bet Championship double-header at Pride Park Stadium this week is an opportunity his side needs to grasp with both hands.
Derby take on Queens Park Rangers and Barnsley on home turf ahead of the upcoming November international break.
First up are Queens Park Rangers on Wednesday night (7:45pm kick-off), before Barnsley head to town on Saturday afternoon (3pm kick-off).
Derby are without a win on home turf so far this season in the Championship and the 50-year-old has stressed the importance of picking up three points at Pride Park.
Cocu’s side have picked up three successive 1-1 draws against Nottingham Forest, Cardiff City and AFC Bournemouth and believes a positive week would be the ideal way to enter the two-week gap without a competitive fixture.
“These are very important games for us before the international break,” Cocu told RamsTV.
“We realise that our home form hasn’t been great, and we can’t use the excuse that the home fans aren’t here.
“That is a big part, of course, as the fans help us in creating the atmosphere, but when we are playing at Pride Park we have to get the results we want.
“We produced some consistent performances in the last couple of games, but now when we play two home games we need to step up and get the results we need to make sure we can climb up the table.”
Derby’s start to the season has been slow, having picked up one win and three draws from their opening nine matches.
Performances in recent weeks, with the likes of Martyn Waghorn and Tom Lawrence back from injury, have warranted better results and offered encouraging signs moving forward.
Cocu is against labelling matches as ‘must win’ and says it is down to everyone in the Derby camp to retain their belief in their qualities.
“We play to win every game,” Cocu said. “We tried to get the win at Bournemouth as well on Saturday, it was a really tough game so we will do the same in the home games.
“It is hard to say ‘this is must win’ in the Championship because you have to have respect for your opponent and every game is difficult.
“We also have to have strong belief in our own qualities so we can put in a good performance at Pride Park.”