Frank Lampard "full of respect" for Leeds United and Marcelo Bielsa as Derby County relish "underdog" tag

Derby County head coach Frank Lampard.
Derby County head coach Frank Lampard.
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Frank Lampard says he is full of respect for Leeds United and Marcelo Bielsa with Derby County relishing the "underdog" tag ahead of this weekend's Championship play-off encounter.

County are set to welcome the Whites to Pride Park on Saturday evening in what is a sell-out for the first leg of the semi-final clash.

United defeated the Rams twice during the course of the regular season with a 4-1 demolition in Derbyshire last August before a 2-0 victory followed in January at Elland Road.

Lampard, though, admitted that his side couldn't forget the two defeats heading into this weekend's fixture believing that his players must be ready for any challenge that faces them.

"I think we're underdogs," Lampard said, "that's a challenge that we'll have to accept and take on.

"We mustn’t forget they beat us twice and finished above us in the league. I respect them hugely. We’ll focus on ourselves, prepare well and we’ll be ready.

"If we’ve got any chance of getting to Wembley, we’ve got two really tough games ahead. It’s a challenge we have to accept and take on.”

United find themselves in the play-offs after a poor run of form which has seen them pick up just one point from a possible 12 in the league.

The four-game winless run saw their automatic promotion hopes slip through Marcelo Bielsa's fingers as Sheffield United secured their spot in the top two alongside champions Norwich City.

Asked if form would have any bearing on the two-legged affair, Lampard said: "I don’t think form will matter.

"I can only speak for ourselves and we feel good. But Leeds are one of the strongest teams in the division.

"It’s a clean slate for us.”

The second fixture between the two sides was overshadowed by an off-field incident, which is now commonly know as 'Spygate'.

A member of Bielsa's coaching staff was caught outside Derby's training ground in the build-up to the game, with United subsequently fined £200,000 by the EFL.

"It doesn’t matter at all going into this game," Lampard said of the incident.

"It will matter for the fans - that’s the beauty of rivalry in football. But we have to make sure we don’t get caught up with that.

"An old story should have no bearing on how the team performs.”

Lampard admitted at the time that the incident distracted his and his sides build-up to the clash.

The 40-year-old, though, revealed that despite the obvious bad blood between the two sides five months ago that time had been a good healer.

"Now I’m a manager, I understand the pressures," he said, "the difficulties and that people have different styles.

"But I do respect someone who has had a career like he’s had - and that doesn’t change."