Parker warns Fulham they are in for tough Derby challenge

Fulham are being linked with a move for Levante defender Jose Manuel Rodríguez Benitoas as Scott Parker prepares for life in the Championship.

Fulham boss Scott Parker has warned his players they will be facing a much-improved Derby compared to the one they thrashed earlier in the season.

November’s 3-0 victory at Craven Cottage was one of the more comfortable Fulham have enjoyed in the Championship this season, with goals from Bobby Reid, Aleksandar Mitrovic and captain Tom Cairney helping them to all three points.

The Cottagers will now head into Friday night’s match at Pride Park looking to close the gap on the automatic promotion positions back down to one point, while they can also open up a 15-point gap on their opponents, who are bidding to keep their flickering play-off hopes alive.

Parker is refusing to underestimate Derby, however, as the Rams have been in improved form since the turn of the year, something that has coincided with the arrival of Wayne Rooney, who will be making his 500th league appearance in English football if he features on Friday.

Derby’s home record is a particular concern for Parker, as only Preston have taken more points on their own patch this season than Phillip Cocu’s side this season.

“They’re a totally different team to the one we played earlier on in the season,” Parker said at his pre-match press conference. “They’ve got the second best home form in the division.

“It’s always a tough place to go, Pride Park, and even more so now because Derby are on a good run. They’re doing really well, so it will be a tough, tough place to go, I have no doubt.”