Simon Grayson believes Preston North End’s record against the Championship’s promotion pushers means they should not face Derby County with any sense of fear.
The Lilywhites have taken points off five of the current top six – the fifth-place Rams the exception.
Adding Derby to that list at Pride Park would give Grayson a great deal of satisfaction.
North End boss Grayson said: “I went to watch Derby against Burnley last week and they played well box-to-box.
“They just didn’t have much luck in defence and didn’t take their chances when they came along.
“Derby have some good players, they were favourites for the division at the start of the season.
“There are different expectancy levels at their club compared to ours.
“It is a good test for our individual players and also collectively as a team.
“Derby will be looking to get back into winning ways and return to those top two positions again very quickly.
“I’m sure they will be very aware of what we can do and what we have done against the teams at the top end of the division already this season.
“We’ve done really well this year, we’ve been to Burnley and got a good result, then Brighton, QPR, a lot of those teams are in the top six or seven of the division.”
Derby were 2-1 winners over North End at Deepdale in September, Chris Martin on target twice for the visitors, with Daniel Johnson getting PNE’s late reply.
That is a game which Grayson thinks highlights what the division is all about.
He said: “There have been occasions this season when we have made a couple of small errors and got punished.
“Also, that extra bit of quality can undo you at times.
“A fine example is when we played Derby at home.
“Two moments of magic from them were key, the ball over to Chris Martin and then his finish for the first goal, showed that if you are half a yard out of position, you can get punished.
“It was the same last week against Brentford.
“For their second goal the left-sided centre-back knocked it over Greg Cunningham and he missed it by 15-20cm.
“It was a great touch from Alan Judge and he had scored. It’s that type of thing which our players are learning from.”
Derby are on a run of five games without a win in the league, a run which their head coach Paul Clement hopes the Rams can end against North End.
He was encouraged by parts of their performance in Friday 3-1 defeat in the FA Cup to Manchester United.
Clement said: “I saw enough in the team in terms of quality, character, shape, to believe a positive result is not far away.
“That was the case against Burnley, as well, in the first half.
“We have been on a run before and have to believe we can do it again.
“We have a massive game on Tuesday against Preston.
“After our poor start in August, it was a game away at Preston that started us on a positive run.
“Hopefully, we can do that again. There were lots of pleasing things against United for us to take forward into the next games.”