We'll approach Cup game just the same as League, says Rams manager
TEAMS these days appear to find it increasingly difficult to balance League and FA Cup commitments but you will not find Derby County's focus straying from the Cup today.
"We want to progress as far as we can," is Nigel Clough's simple message ahead of the fourth round tie against Blackburn Rovers at Pride Park (3pm).
Asked how much emphasis he places on the competition, Clough said his team sheet would provide the answer.
"We will pick the best team we can – we are not into the practice of fielding weakened teams, or anything like that," said the manager.
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"It is the same principle for a Cup game as it is a League game. If a player is fit, he will play.
"We would love to get through."
Derby are looking to reach the fifth round for a third time in five years and see plenty of incentives in the competition, notably what it can do for confidence and finances.
The Rams drew 1-1 with Blackburn in the League in October and Clough expects another tight game.
"We learnt from that game about the quality they have," said Clough.
"There was nothing in it and then Jordan Rhodes – an £8m striker – popped up and put one in the bottom corner and we found ourselves chasing the game.
"Blackburn have got quality throughout the side. Look at their side on paper and you would not rule them out of reaching the top six this season.
"There are some very good teams in the Cup but you never know what can happen. If you can get through this round and get a nice little home draw again, before you know it you could find yourself in the quarter-finals.
"But Blackburn is going to be as tough as any tie."
Derby have lost only one of their last five matches. One of the victories was 5-0 against Tranmere Rovers in the previous round, also at Pride Park.
"Our home form is our biggest asset," said Clough.
"We have suffered only two narrow defeats at home, to Burnley and Hull City, and that is why it was important not to lose when we went one down against Nottingham Forest last weekend.
"Our win against Tranmere in the Cup was no mean achievement. Look at their results since that tie – they are a good side.
"I spoke to (Tranmere manager) Ronnie Moore this week and he said they have been going well apart from when they played us, when they had an off-day.
"But you have still got to put five goals in and that gave us confidence."
Blackburn arrive with Michael Appleton at the helm, the club's third manager this season.
Steve Kean started the season in charge. He was sacked in September and replaced by Henning Berg, who lasted until December before being shown the door.
Blackburn have also had two caretaker managers this season in Eric Black and Gary Bowyer.
Rams skipper Richard Keogh says Blackburn will now be looking for a period of stability under Appleton.
"He's obviously very highly regarded within the game, when you look at the number of jobs he's got in a short space of time," added Keogh.
"He's worked with some fantastic guys and I played against his Portsmouth side last season.
"They (Blackburn) will want a bit of stability now and have gone for the man they wanted.
"It's going to be a tough job for him, because the owners want success, but he seems like a bright coach.
"I wish him well – but after this weekend!"