STEVE McClaren believes his Derby County players will have to show great courage if they are to topple Chelsea in the FA Cup, writes STEVE NICHOLSON.
Chelsea, third in the Premier League, are odds-on to beat the Rams in tomorrow’s televised third-round tie at the iPro Stadium, kick off 2.15pm.
Derby are fourth in the Championship and enjoying a run of only two defeats in 15 matches under McClaren.
McClaren accepts the size of the task facing his side. He said: “We sat down and tried to pick their team – that’s difficult enough.
“Chelsea are a top team coming back into form. I’ve heard Jose Mourinho say they’ve no chance of the Premier League but that’s bit premature.
“I’d be very surprised if Chelsea are not in the top two at the end of the day.”
But McClaren wants his players to relish the challenge.
“We are really focussing on what we do,” he said. “We want the players to express themselves like they have been doing and do themselves justice on the day.
“That means they have to compete, their attitude has to be spot on and then they have to have the courage to get on the ball and play.
“It is easy to put your head in, to run, work and tackle, but it takes more courage to play.
“The players will need to show that courage and belief. If they do that, I’ll be delighted. You also need some good fortune if you are to beat a top team.
“From the first day we came in we wanted to create a buzz and excitement. We have done that so far and the FA Cup draw couldn’t have been better.
“Everyone is looking forward to the tie. We have nothing to lose.
“Chelsea will give us a good gauge, but it would be totally false to compare Chelsea with any team in Championship.”
Derby have tightened up defensively in the past two months. They have not conceded more than one goal in any of the last 10 matches but McClaren knows Chelsea will test that record.
“Chelsea have a magnificent front four, regardless of who they play,” McClaren added.
“It will be a great test for our young defenders Andre Wisdom, Michael Keane and Craig Forsyth but a test to relish.
“Individually, players must look at this game and compete. For our players to pit their wits against the Chelsea players is great.”
Mourinho plans to field a strong Chelsea team.
“We are not going to give a break to some players because we want to win the game, and we don’t want to play a second game,” Mourinho said.
“We go to win with our best team. If we think (goalkeeper) Petr Cech needs a rest, for Mark Schwarzer to play is not a problem.”
Brazilian defender David Luiz is available after being suspended for the Premier League win at Southampton and could return.
Midfielder Frank Lampard and right-back Branislav Ivanovic are out until the end of the month, while Marco van Ginkel continues his recovery from a knee injury.