Dundee derby is ‘biggest game in the Premiership’

IT HAS always been the most important match in the minds of the majority of football fans in Dundee but as the only city rivalry still scheduled in the top tier of the Scottish game, Radoslaw Cierzniak says the Tayside derby is now the country’s showcase event.

Dundee and Dundee United go head to head in a tug of war ahead of Sundays derby. Picture: SNS

“The Dundee derby is the biggest game in the Premiership at the moment,” insists the Dundee United keeper, who has come to understand the significance of the head to head. “At the moment there is no Hearts v Hibs or Rangers v Celtic, so this one is biggest. There will be a very good atmosphere, derbies are very important to people in Scotland. I would say it’s more so here than it is in Poland.”

This derby is even more intriguing given the close proximity of the clubs, who share not only a city but also a street. That throws up some quirks, giving this fixture an identity of its own. “The fact both teams are doing well and both stay in the same street makes it unique. It is good for Dundee as a city to have two strong teams here. It’s strange having two clubs so close to each other, but it’s a nice experience. We will get changed then walk up the street, that is a great thing.”

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The Pole enjoyed a taste of the derby in his first year at the club, in the 2012/13 season, and enjoyed the fact that the Tannadice side won three of the four meetings and drew the other. In fact it has been ten years since the tangerine side of the divide has suffered defeat, although given the fact they were operating at different levels for the majority of that decade, the record equates to six fixtures.

The 31-year-old keeper wants to extend that run when the teams meet up twice in a matter of days, first in the league and then in the League Cup, and believes that they can do that but he also acknowledges that they will probably face a tougher challenge this time around.

“Dundee have not won a derby for a long time but we don’t think about that,” he added. “All we want to do is win this game for ourselves and for the fans.

“For now, we’re not looking further than Sunday, though. That’s the biggest one and after that it will be the cup match. Only after Sunday’s game, we’ll look at Wednesday.”

Early league form suggests it could be close. United have succumbed to only one defeat thus far, a humiliation at the hands of Celtic, but with a greater percentage of wins than draws, they still have a three point advantage over Paul Hartley’s team. However, the newly promoted side boast an unbeaten record.

Combine that stubborn resistance with the fact that United will be without arguably their most dangerous attacker, Nadir Ciftci and Cierzniak acknowledges the difficulty of the task awaiting them at Dens Park on Sunday, saying it will be a step up from the experiences of two years ago.

“We have a big squad and a lot of people have been waiting for their chance. Nadir is out but that gives a chance to someone else to play and show what they can do,” said Cierzniak.

“Losing Nadir is a big loss to us because he is an important player but Mario Bilate is here and he can play there. He’s strong and fast, so he’s a good replacement for Nadir in this game.

“Hopefully we will have Ryan Dow and Stuart Armstrong back again as well, I don’t know if they will be. We’ll have to wait and see.

“At the moment Dundee are a different team to what they were two years ago. I have not seen them play yet but they have had good results and people tell me they are playing really well. I think they will be tougher opponents than they were the last time we played them. We are expecting this. We know it will be hard work. There will be a lot of tackles in the game. We won the games last time but I think this is a much bigger game.”

With the incentive of making amends to the fans who were disappointed by United’s inability to take advantage of the chance to go top of the table at the weekend, only drawing with Hamilton and handing that honour to them instead, Cierzniak says the squad will be more focused and he remains positive.

“We were disappointed to lose the goals we did against Hamilton. I made a stupid mistake, we gave Hamilton two gifts and that’s why we didn’t win. We can’t do that this weekend but I’m sure we will be better. I expect a tough game but I think we’ll get the three points.”

Convinced the quality has been ramped up, he also believes the interest from outside has intensified, with the spotlight firmly on the city this week.

“People didn’t seem as interested back then, maybe that was just me and I didn’t understand it all at the time. But more people seem to be interested in this game now. I expect a good game on Sunday – and for us to win.”