Wayne Rooney has stressed that Derby County must rise to the challenge in what he has described as a ‘cup final’ at Pride Park Stadium on Saturday.
Derby will take on Sheffield Wednesday in their final fixture of the 2020/21 Sky Bet Championship season knowing that a win will see them preserve their second-tier status for next term.
Rotherham United and tomorrow’s opponents Wednesday are two and three points behind the Rams respectively with better goal differences, so there will plenty at stake when the final round of games get underway at 12:30pm.
The scenario is simple for Derby; win and they will avoid relegation. A draw may or may not be enough. A defeat will result in them dropping down to League One.
Rooney, 35, is confident his players can step up to the plate and address a run of six successive defeats and secure safety after a challenging campaign.
“We are in a position where we know that three points keeps us safe; simple as that,” Rooney told RamsTV.
“It is a cup final; you win it, you get rewarded. You lose and it is not a nice place to be. The previous 45 games have gone now; we are not looking back at any of those games at all. We have to treat it like a cup final and if we win, we will go home happy.
“I am looking forward to it. It is a challenge, a high-pressured game and one we have to enjoy. We have to enjoy the challenge.
“The lads have been in a really good place this week. The week has been positive and the attitude they have shown in training has been good.
“Of course, they are a bit low on confidence after the last few games but the energy they were showing this morning was fantastic and the way they trained.
“Everything is showing, and from my point of view, whatever happens on Saturday, these players have been a real credit to themselves and the club in the way they have conducted themselves. On the other hand, they have to go and perform and get the three points - I am confident we will.”
Rooney added: “The players have had to face a lot this season, but I think the big thing is, they have not complained, they haven’t made a fuss and they give everything and have tried everything on the training pitch and pitch.
“I can’t ask for more than that. What I do know is that hard work pays off, you get results for it and you get rewarded for that.”
Rooney is fully aware of the importance of the game for everyone connected with the club.
He says the coaching staff and his players will give their absolute everything to get the right result.
“We just have to be more ruthless when we get opportunities and when we get chances to score, we have to take them,” Rooney said.
“More importantly, we have to make sure we keep a clean sheet. A clean sheet is vital on Saturday.
“It is a huge game for the football club, the city, the fans and for everyone involved in this football club.
“There are players from foreign countries and different cities here, but we are all together and we are all representing this football club and we will do everything we can to get the right result.”
With Wednesday also battling for survival, the game is set to be a tense affair.
The Owls know they have to win the game, so Rooney is aware that the visitors will have to take the game to Derby at some point.
“We have set up for different scenarios,” Rooney said.
“Sheffield Wednesday could come straight out and attack us from the off, they could sit in and try and win the game towards the end, so we know there are different ways they could approach it in the same way there are different ways we could approach it.
“I am confident in the way we have set up and the approach is right regardless of what they do and we will be ready.”