STEVE McClaren has called on his Derby County players to produce a combination of fire and ice in tomorrow’s televised showdown against rivals Nottingham Forest.
The neighbours will lock horns at the iPro Stadium, kick off 12.15pm, with derby sitting third and Forest sixth.
It is the first time in 20 years that both clubs are vying for promotion from the same division in the same season.
The last time was 1993/94 when Forest went up automatically and Derby lost to Leicester City in the play-off final.
The promotion issue adds extra spice to what is normally a fiery fixture watched by a sell-out crowd.
McClaren is fully aware of what the game means to supporters and players.
“What a fantastic occasion, and both clubs are going for the play offs, but we have to keep a cool head,” he said.
“We have got to have what I call fire and ice – fire in the belly and ice coolness to play football.
“We have to stay composed, stay relaxed and calm, and deal with the pressure and the expectation.
“The players know that, they know what they have to do.”
Derby and Forest have 10 games left to play.
“Every game is massive,” said McClaren.
“We have got to hold our nerve and keep going, and not get bogged down with what others are doing. We have to collect the points.
“Tomorrow isn’t a winner takes all game. There will still be nine games to go, but whoever gets the result Saturday it will be pivotal to what happens over the next nine games.
“Every game – whether it is Nottingham Forest, Ipswich on Tuesday or Charlton after that – is now a big game.
“I would hate our players to treat this game any differently than Ipswich next Tuesday.
“This game has added spice, yes, but it is not just about Derby versus Forest. It is about staying in a play-off position, which we both want to do.”
Derby are without a win and a goal in four matches. Forest are winless in seven.