Derby County's young guns are on a high as they prepare for FA Youth Cup quarter-final against holders Chelsea
DERBY County's young guns are "on a high" going into tonight's FA Youth Cup quarter-final showdown with Premier League giants Chelsea.
Rams Academy manager Darren Wassall says his side are relishing the challenge of taking on the current cup holders at Pride Park Stadium (7pm).
Derby's under-18 squad are in fine form and still buzzing after knocking out Manchester City in the previous round last week.
They have now won seven competitive matches in a row – the latest a 1-0 victory over Sheffield United last Saturday – and are hoping to claim another big cup scalp.
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"We are all excited, players and coaches alike, at the opportunity to play the cup holders at Pride Park," said Wassall.
"The lads know it will be hard but are still on a high from the Man City game, which they followed up with a good performance against Sheffield United.
"They shouldn't need motivating for this one.
"We have prepared very well all week. Everyone understands their roles and responsibilities – and, hopefully, we can give it a good shot.
"We're under no illusions about how tough it will be but we're relishing the challenge.
"We're full of hope, ambition and self-belief."
This is Derby's fourth home tie in a row, having already seen off Gateshead (4-0), Ipswich Town (3-2) and Man City (2-0).
Chelsea, who also won the competition in 2010, have not had an easy ride in their defence of the trophy.
They began their campaign with a 3-2 win away to Colchester United and had to battle back from two goals down at Charlton Athletic before going through by the same scoreline in extra time.
In the previous round, they had a more comfortable passage, beating Barnsley 3-0.
"Chelsea are full of internationals and foreign imports, so we're not getting ahead of ourselves," said Wassall.
"They have spent a lot of money on their Academy and are in the market for the best young players in the world.
"Like Man City, they have probably spent more on their youth team than we have on our first team.
"Having said that, we're also aware of our own capabilities and we will be encouraging the lads to go out and express themselves."
Wassall added: "We are definitely underdogs, no question.
"We're up against the millionaires of Chelsea, so we certainly won't underestimate them.
"But we also believe in ourselves and if we're courageous, honest and work hard, we'll have a chance.
"We will show them respect and we know they can hurt us if we allow them time and space.
"But we have a game plan and we'll make sure they know they have been in a game."
Wassall will again be without England Under-21 international midfielder Will Hughes due to injury but hopes to name the same squad as for the Man City game.
Striker Mason Bennett and centre-back Jamie Hanson have been part of Nigel Clough's first-team set-up of late.
The senior side have a Championship match at Birmingham City tomorrow afternoon but Wassall expects to have the key duo available.
"The first team are always the priority and whatever happens, we will deal with it," he said.
"But the manager (Clough) wants to give us the best opportunity to win the game, which is a measure of the person he is.
"So at the moment, they are both available – I just hope that is still the case come 7pm tonight!"
The winners of this evening's game will face either Hull City or Liverpool, who play on Tuesday, in a two-leg semi-final.
"In football, these moments don't come along very often," Wassall added.
"Hopefully, the players will have learned a lot from the Man City game and will be able to handle the situation well.
"Last season, we put in a great performance to beat Arsenal but felt we didn't do ourselves justice against Manchester United in the next round.
"It was a case of after the Lord Mayor's show and we don't want a repeat of that."