Emile Heskey insists he is ready to lead Wigan's battle to beat the drop after boosting his fitness last week.
While the rest of the Latics' squad enjoyed a break over the FA Cup weekend, Heskey travelled to Oxford with club staff to undergo a series of intensive training sessions.
The England striker has struggled to regain full fitness after returning from a broken metatarsal and has been hampered by back spasms in recent weeks.
But the former Leicester and Liverpool frontman feels his injury problems are now behind him and is raring to go against bottom-club Derby.
"The injury has been annoying more than anything and I had a great time with the specialist last week which went really well," Heskey told the club's official website.
"I've been back this week as normal and training hard with the rest of the lads, ready for Derby. This is a game I really want to play in and, to be fair, all the lads are really up for it."
Derby manager Paul Jewell returns to the JJB Stadium for the first time since leading Wigan to a final-day escape act last season.
The Latics have been back in relegation trouble this term, although victory over fellow strugglers Derby would take them four points clear of the drop zone ahead of Reading's clash with Aston Villa on Sunday.
"Paul Jewell did brilliantly for this club and I really hope he gets a good reception becauce he deserves it," said Heskey.
"But once that whistle goes, this is going to be just another all-out Premier League battle and it's a game we really want and need to win.
"You've got to win your home matches and therefore the pressure will be on us. But pressure is fine, I've been living with it since I was 17, and I'm 30 now. It's nothing new to me, I actually thrive on it when the stakes are high.
"Last season had a happy ending, but nobody here wants a repeat of that because it really was too close for comfort. That should drive us on."
Heskey has partnered Marlon King up front in Wigan's last two games, and following King's big-money move from Watford in January, Heskey feels the Latics have enough depth and quality in attack to fire themselves to safety.
"The squad we have now is better in quality and we know if we look into ourselves that we should be doing better," he said. "But we need to go and prove that for the rest of the season and make sure we stay in the Pemier League.
"There have been times this season when we have been short of bodies, but that is certainly not the case now, especially since the arrival of Marlon King. We've also got Marcus Bent, Antoine Sibierski and Julius Aghahowa vying for the shirts so we all know we can't allow our standards to drop, which is great for the team.
"We won the last game here by showing guts and a great desire and we need to repeat that today."