Wayne Rooney believes Derby County have another ‘important month’ of action coming up on the pitch.
Derby return to action following the first two-week international break of the season by heading across the Midlands to face Birmingham City on Friday night (8pm kick-off).
The clash against Lee Bowyer’s side is the first of six Sky Bet Championship fixtures before the October international break comes into play.
Derby also have away matches at West Bromwich Albion and Sheffield United in the next few weeks, as well as home fixtures at Pride Park Stadium against Stoke City, Reading and Swansea City.
Rooney’s side have started the season steadily, picking up one win and three draws from their opening five matches of the league campaign, and produced some encouraging performances.
The Derby boss is looking forward to seeing how his side handle the tough run of upcoming fixtures, with 18 points up for grabs.
The squad returned to training earlier this week, after being given last week off to recharge their batteries, to begin the preparations for the trip to Birmingham.
“It’s important the lads had some rest during the break, a few days off to recharge the batteries, and come back for an important month,” Rooney told RamsTV.
“We have quite a few games between now and early October and it’s important we get the legs going again and get ready for this next group of matches, which we hope we can get a few wins in.
“The players have been brilliant in training, but there’s a lot of games in such a short space of time coming up.
“Every match is important so we need to protect the players and get the rest when they can.”
Derby’s trip to the St Andrew's Trillion Trophy Stadium last season was a memorable one.
Rooney’s side were 4-0 winners, thanks to goals from Krystian Bielik, Graeme Shinnie, Colin Kazim-Richards and Jason Knight.
The Blues were under the management of Aitor Karanka at the time but, with Lee Bowyer in the hotseat, Rooney is aware of the strides they’ve made under the former Charlton Athletic boss.
Birmingham pulled clear of relegation trouble towards the end of last term and have started the current campaign in a positive manner.
Rooney said: “I think it will be a tough game; they are hard to break down and defend really well.
“They are quite aggressive when they attack and go direct. They try and play a little bit as well, so we know it won’t be easy.
“Every game is tough in the Championship so we will have to go there prepared, try and play our way and do all we can to get a positive result.”
On last season’s trip to the West Midlands, Rooney added: “They are a different team to what they were back then, as we are, so we are expecting a very tough game so we will have to make sure we prepare well and be ready to do everything to get three points.”
Derby will be backed by a sold out away following on Friday, with all 1,000 tickets quickly snapped up by supporters.
Rooney has, once again, praised the backing the players have received in the early stages of the season after the fans made their long-awaited return to stadiums in August.
He said: “The fans have been great since they have been allowed back and fantastic in supporting the team.
“I can’t ask for any more from the fans. They are giving us the support, the noise they are making and the support they are giving the lads has been brilliant.
“We know it has been a difficult moment as a club but I think the fans appreciate what the players are trying to do and the energy and effort they are giving them.”