Nottingham Forest boss Aitor Karanka wants the Reds to use Monday’s derby clash to show how far they have progressed since the last meeting with arch-rivals Derby County.
Karanka said Forest would need to manage the game well when they visit Pride Park for the East Midlands derby.
He told Forest’s official club website: “I am looking forward to it; I have heard about this game a lot of times. We played it last season but the game wasn’t the same conditions for both teams.
“Now, it is really nice because I am really proud of the players and the way that the club is working. After just seven months, we are almost in the same position as them.
“They are three important points and it means more than that. But we have to try to play the game in the way that we know we can, to control the game and that when we have the ball we are a good team.
“We showed against other teams that when we don’t have the ball we have to defend and be organised. We have to try to manage this game in both directions; when we have the ball we try to play and when we don’t have the ball we have to be consistent and organised.”
Karanka said he would not risk players fighting back to fitness ahead of a busy festive schedule ahead.
“All of them are excited,” he said. “Everybody wants to be involved in the game. The players who are injured are desperate to arrive to play but we have to be careful and not take any risks.
“After the Derby game, we have a lot of games over Christmas so if we lose again Michael Dawson or Danny Fox, it could be a big mistake.
“I hope they can be involved. Until the moment that the doctor tells me that there is no chance, we will check for the players. Let’s see what happens but I don’t want to take any risks with both of them.”