Dundee head into Friday night’s first derby of the season unbeaten in the Championship and eyeing a chance to put a dent in Dundee United’s perfect start to the Championship campaign.
Even this early, the Tangerines have put down a mark in Scotland’s second-tier title race and victory at Tannadice would give them a handy seven-point gap over their oldest rivals.
For Dundee, they may have lost the Betfred Cup knockout tie with Aberdeen at Dens a week past Sunday but the performance against one of the country’s best sides has strengthened belief on the pitch and in the stands in James McPake’s side.
So where can the Dark Blues win on Friday night?
Dons boss Derek McInnes hailed the front pairing of Kane Hemmings and Danny Johnson as Premiership quality and Dens gaffer James was more than happy to agree with him.
He was quick to add in Andrew Nelson in that mix, too.
Going with both Hemmings and Johnson up top would send a signal to the Tangerines’ backline they’ll have to be switched on for 90 minutes.
As impressive as Robbie Neilson’s side have been this campaign, there have been some questions over the defence.
Getting service into their strikers early on will be key as Dundee look to make things as uncomfortable as possible for Mark Reynolds and Mark Connolly.
As experienced as those two are, Johnson and Hemmings on form will be very difficult to deal with.
Johnson showed against Aberdeen that he can do the physical side of things when he battered Scott McKenna and Andrew Considine around while Hemmings’ pace and directness will complement that.
Dundee United have an obvious threat – Lawrence Shankland has 43 goals in 97 Championship appearances, including 24 last campaign.
He’s started life at Tannadice on fire and getting to grips with his movement will be vital if Dundee are to get any sort of result.
The Dark Blues rearguard, with Jordan McGhee and Jordon Forster the main men so far, has been pretty miserly this campaign with six clean sheets from their eight matches and only four goals conceded in nine under James McPake. Keeping that going will be job No 1 for the manager, a former central defender himself, especially with Shankland threatening to repeat his exceptional scoring record at the start of last season.
However, the former Ayr man is not the only one to watch.
On the flanks, Cammy Kerr and Jordan Marshall will have to keep tabs on Paul McMullan and Peter Pawlett. McMullan has been a key provider for United’s goals once more this season while former Aberdeen man Pawlett is just back from injury.
Heading into the hostile atmosphere at Tannadice, with United fans taking up three sides of the stadium, the experience of players like Jamie Ness and Paul McGowan could be vital.
Both have played at Ibrox and Parkhead in front of big, imposing crowds creating plenty of noise and, with teen sensation Fin Robertson likely to keep his place in the line-up, one or both of them may be needed to see the young lad through.
Nothing has fazed the midfielder so far but a full house in a derby will be a whole new experience.
Dundee have built a fairly young squad, meaning the likes of Forster, McGowan, Byrne, Ness and Hemmings may well make the difference.