Derby boss Frank Lampard has warned his side will face a physical test of their promotion credentials when they head to Preston North End on Friday night.
The Rams will return to Championship action at Deepdale after securing a place in the FA Cup fifth round with a hard-earned 1-0 win at Accrington.
With Derby in sixth place, just two ahead of the chasing pack, Lampard knows there is little margin for error as they enter the business end of the campaign.
"I've been impressed by Preston," Lampard said.
"They've been on good form and made it difficult for us when we played them earlier in the season.
"They are a physical, well-organised team, but also have the quality to score goals.
"They have a lot of threats on all fronts."
Lampard recruited former Chelsea and England team-mate Ashley Cole on a short-term contract last week.
The former Los Angeles Galaxy left-back, 38, could be in contention to feature in the televised match.
"He is getting closer," the Derby boss said.
"I am not sure if he will be fully involved - that extra 15 to 20 per cent match fitness is what we're looking for.
"The last thing we want to do is throw him in too early, but if needs be, he might play some part."