Despite their contrasting recent form, the sides begin the week sitting three points adrift of Cardiff City, who occupy the final playoff spot.
Before the arrival of Wayne Rooney, Derby found themselves in 17th position in the standings, more concerned about the teams looking to avoid relegation than promotion to the Premier League.
However, Rooney has helped inspire a team built of youth and experience, with the Rams now sitting within touching distance of breaking into the top six for the first time this season.
Although they are still only two points above 12th spot, four successive wins make the East Midlands outfit the form team in the division, fully justifying Derby's decision to keep faith with Philip Cocu before the midway point of the campaign.
The latest success, a hard-fought 2-1 triumph over Reading, came courtesy of two goals in two minutes before half time, and Cocu will feel that his team must learn lessons from how they managed a nervy second half against the Royals.
Nevertheless, the fact that they held on for maximum points highlighted that this developing team have more strings to their bow than simply relying on England's top goalscorer in history.
While Derby have been on an upward trajectory before and after lockdown, the opposite has occurred with Preston, who look on the brink of dropping out of the playoff picture.
Despite keeping in close proximity to Cardiff, whom they lost to at the weekend, four defeats from five matches have resulted in Preston occupying their lowest position for some time.
You also have to go back until September for Preston's last clean sheet at Deepdale, a run spanning 18 matches in all competitions.
Both statistics suggest that Alex Neil is up against it to inspire a significant turnaround at this stage of the season, especially beginning with opponents who have been in free-scoring mood away from home.
That said, with this the first of four games left to play against fellow playoff contenders, Neil will hope that such occasions will act as the catalyst for his players bouncing back over the coming weeks.
Preston North End Championship form: WLLLDL
Derby County Championship form: DLWWWW
Andre Wisdom will be unavailable for selection for the foreseeable future after he was stabbed while visiting a relative in Liverpool at the weekend.
Derby will also be without Tom Lawrence for the trip to the North-West after his red card against Reading.
Paul Huntington may also be considered for his first start since January after remaining as an unused substitute at the weekend.
Preston North End possible starting lineup:
Rudd; Fisher, Bauer, Davies, Hughes; Johnson, Pearson, Gallagher; Barkhuizen, Maguire, Sinclair
Derby County possible starting lineup:
Hamer; Bogle, Clarke, Davies, Forsyth; Rooney, Bird; Waghorn, Sibley, Holmes; Martin
We say: Preston North End 1-2 Derby County
While Preston may rediscover some form during the run-in, we do not expect it to be during their next game. Derby are impressing observers on a week-by-week basis, and that should continue on Wednesday evening.