STEVE McClaren has called on his Derby County team to play their football and express themselves when Premier League Chelsea come to town on Sunday, writes STEVE NICHOLSON.
A run of only two defeats in 15 matches under head coach McClaren has seen the Rams surge from 14th to fourth in the Championship.
Derby suffered a first defeat in 10 games when they lost 1-0 to Wigan Athletic on New Year’s Day but McClaren wants to see the players put that behind them when Chelsea visit the iPro Stadium in the third round of the FA Cup.
“Wigan stopped us playing, which was disappointing because generally we have played very, very good football,” he said.
“I did not enjoy watching the Wigan game and so I want us to express ourselves against Chelsea, be positive and enjoy the experience.”
Derby embarked on a nine-match unbeaten run following their previous defeat – at the hands of Queen’s Park Rangers at the beginning of November.
“After we lost to QPR, I asked for a reaction, for a response, and the players responded fantastically,” McClaren said.
“We’d like to see something similar.”
Derby recorded six wins and a draw in their seven games in December.
“December was unbelievable for us but the run was always going to come to an end,” said McClaren. “It is now about how we respond.
“We’ve progressed and we now need to make sure we maintain the standards we’ve set.
“The effort and fight was there against Wigan but the quality wasn’t quite there which was mainly down to the resilience of Wigan.
“The Chelsea game will be a great occasion.”