Derby County and Luton Town will trade tackles at Pride Park on Friday, with three points at stake in the Sky Bet Championship.
The Rams suffered a 1-0 defeat away to Stoke City in their most recent fixture before the international break.
There is no getting away from the fact that it has been a tough campaign for Derby, who are currently battling to remain above the relegation zone in the Championship.
The hosts are in desperate need of a win. A record of 10 wins, 10 draws and 18 defeats from 38 matches has seen The Rams collect 40 points, as they currently sit in 19th spot on the table, five points above the relegation places.
Wayne Rooney's side are actually without a victory in the league since a 2-0 success over Huddersfield Town on February 23, losing four and drawing three of their last seven matches in the second tier.
They will certainly be wary of suffering another poor result on Friday ahead of two difficult matches with sixth-placed Reading and runaway leaders Norwich City.
The Rams have lost their last two matches with Luton, including a 2-1 defeat in the reverse game earlier this season, but they won 2-0 when the pair last locked horns at Pride Park in October 2019.
Luton, meanwhile, have won their last two in the league, following a 2-0 success at home to Coventry City on March 16 with a 1-0 victory away to Preston North End before the international break. They sit fairly comfortable in 13th position, having accrued 50 points from 37 matches to date.
Nathan Jones’ side are 15 points clear of the relegation zone but 12 points off the top six, meaning that they do not have an awful lot to play for at this stage of the campaign. A play-off push is not impossible, but a lot would have to happen in the coming weeks for that to occur, and all The Hatters can do is keep winning and see where it takes them.
The away side who finished 19th in the Championship last season, have won seven times on their travels this term but have incredibly only scored nine times in 19 away fixtures, which is the worst record in the division.
Derby County Championship form: L L D L D L
Luton Town Championship form: W W L L W W
Striker Colin Kazim-Richards has been nursing a knock in recent weeks on his hip area and has been receiving treatment during the international break.
He will have his fitness monitored ahead of the game to determine whether he will be involved or not.
Kamil Jozwiak, David Marshall, Tom Lawrence, Jason Knight, Teden Mengi and Louie Watson have all been away on international duty and will all be assessed to decide if they will play any part against The Hatters.
Jozwiak and Marshall were with Poland and Scotland on Wednesday for their 2022 World Cup qualifiers, therefore meaning a quick turnaround of less than 48 hours, for the clash with Luton.
Lee Gregory is available for selection again after the on-loan Stoke City striker was unable to face his parent club in Derby’s final game before the international break last month.
Striker Martyn Waghorn was left out of the squad in the 1-0 loss at Stoke, but is pushing to be included in the matchday squad.
Midfielder Krystian Bielik is to miss the rest of the season after sustaining anterior cruciate ligament damage to his right knee in the 1-0 home win over Bristol City at the end of January.
Centre-back Curtis Davies remains out of action for a long-term achilles injury and is set to miss the rest of the season.
Winger Jordon Ibe has recently been building up his sharpness to the point where he can join in with first-team training once again.
He had been training with the Under-23 squad with a view to featuring in one of their upcoming matches, but his progress has been hampered by a hamstring problem.
As for Luton, Daniel Potts, Sonny Bradley and Eunan O'Kane remain unavailable for selection, but the visitors are otherwise in good shape heading into Friday's encounter.
Head coach Jones could decide to select the same side that started against Preston, meaning that Tom Ince will miss out on facing his former club and having to accept a spot on the bench once again alongside James Collins.
Collins has been with the Republic of Ireland squad during the international break and was on the scoresheet in his nation's 3-2 defeat to Serbia on March 24.
Derby County Predicted XI (4-3-3):
Roos (GK); Buchanan, Mengi, Clarke, Bryne; Jozwiak, Shinnie, Bird; Roberts, Kazim-Richards, Gregory.
Luton Town Predicted XI (4-3-3):
Sluga (GK); Clark, Naismith, Cranie, Bree; Berry, Rea, Ruddock; Adebayo, Collins, Cornick.
Ones to watch
Tom Lawrence will be looking to make up for lost time in the final six weeks of the Championship campaign, and Derby need the Welsh international.
The Rams cutting edge has been blunt for most of the season and that is certainly the case of late as they have found the net only twice in those seven fixtures.
Lawrence can frustrate with his inconsistency as he drifts in and out of games, while his goals record for Derby, 23 in 138 appearances, is a strike ratio of one every six matches, not a statistic to startle.
But the 27-year-old has the ability in his locker to win games at this level as we saw last season in matches against Huddersfield Town, Middlesbrough, Luton Town and Swansea City. His double also played a key part in a 3-1 victory over Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough.
He has an unpredictable side to his game and can produce a goal out of nothing, and Derby are desperate for goals and a spark because they have been too predictable in the past month.
The vastly experienced attacker and previous Rams man Tom Ince joined the Hatters on loan until the end of the season from Stoke.
The former England Under-21 international has since racked up almost 400 appearances in a club career that has seen him play in the Premier League for Crystal Palace, Hull City and Huddersfield Town, and the Championship with Nottingham Forest and Derby County.
He gives real quality in the final third and is a player manager Nathan Jones admired from his time at the Potteries.
After being plagued by injuries and a lack of minutes on the pitch over the past few seasons the what is unquestionable of the former England Under-21 international is the hunger, desire and character to bounce back and still produce performances of high quality.
The two sides have met on 44 occasions in the past and have an identical head-to-head record.
The two teams have 17 victories apiece in previous matches played, while 10 games ended in a stalemate.
Their most recent meeting came on 19 September 2020 when goals in each half from Luke Berry and Jordan Clark helped Luton Town to a 2-1 home victory.
Speaking to RamsTV ahead of the game, manager Rooney said:
“We are just focusing on Luton on Friday in the first instance.
“That is our next game, and our focus is on that as we see it as the next opportunity to go and get three points - and we have to really.
“It is a big game. We know that we have not been in the best of form. To have a home game on Friday afternoon, I think it is a chance for us.
“Hopefully, the lads who have been away on international duty come back with no injuries or knocks. It is a game we are all looking forward to and one we can hopefully put a performance in to get the win.”
Mick Harford (assistant manager)
Assistant Manager Mick Harford had this to say during Wednesday’s press conference:
”There has been a big improvement, especially in terms of the points. Defensively we have been really solid and sound. We don’t look like conceding goals at all. Certain individuals have come to the fore and performed really well. As a whole group I think we have improved immensely, and it has shown in the league position.
“We want to keep improving, we want to keep getting better and we want to keep testing ourselves. This game against Derby is a big test for us and that is what we look forward to.”
How to watch
Kick off: 15.00 BST, Friday April 2
The game will be available for Derby fans to watch live worldwide on RamsTV or through the Official Derby County App. Luton fans can watch via iFollow Hatters with passes available to purchase from both club websites.