Wolverhampton boss Mick McCarthy is in no doubt as to the importance of Sunday’s derby with West Bromwich Albion.
Recent history is against McCarthy’s side, as Wolves will be trying to win at the Hawthorns for the first time in nine visits since 1996.
Defeat would leave the bottom-placed Wolves six points adrift of their West Midlands rivals, while a win by more than one goal would see them climb out of the drop zone – and above Wolves on goal difference.
“It would be wrong of me to wind players up, but I got them on the training ground and said ‘you can pick any game you like, wherever you’re from – whether it be Ronald Zubar, who tells me it’s Marseille and the Paris teams, or Hearts and Hibernian in Scotland – and told them this is THE big game for this club,” McCarthy said.
“It would be a huge game even if it was a cup-tie with two divisions between us, so because we’re both in the Premier League and we both need points, it’s even bigger.”
“So I have stressed the importance of this game and its significance for this club.”
“There’s three points at stake in every game and that’s the pragmatic approach, but I understand the local feuding because as a player I used to embrace it.”
McCarthy also insisted his victory over a Liverpool side managed by new Baggies boss Roy Hodgson earlier in the season means nothing.
“I don’t think Roy will carry any scars around and I don’t think it will have any bearing on it,” he said.
Stephen Hunt has been ruled out but George Elokobi is fit after shaking off an ankle injury.
Wolves defender Christophe Berra wants to continue his proud derby record as he prepares to play Albion for the first time.
The 25-year-old Scotsman was unbeaten in all but three of 13 Edinburgh derbies against Hibernian, winning five and drawing five.
“This will be my first Black Country derby but I’m well used to derbies from playing for Hearts against Hibs, which is a big rivalry up in Edinburgh,” Berra said.
Despite being new to the Black Country derby arena, Berra is well aware of the importance of the game.
“All derbies mean the same to every fan wherever they are, so we know how important it will be on Sunday. Neither team wants to lose and I think it will be a very tight game,” he said.
“We need to improve our performances against those teams in the bottom half of the table.”