While the Hornets are unbeaten in three matches, Derby have moved clear of the relegation zone after recording five wins from their last six outings.
However, a 6-0 victory over Bristol City and a hard-fought 1-0 success at Preston North End have lifted the mood at Vicarage Road, giving fans hope that their side can still challenge for the top two.
Their three nearest rivals have matches in hand, something which needs to be taken into consideration when evaluating Watford's chances of gaining automatic promotion.
Nevertheless, Xisco has now collected 20 points from his 10 league matches in charge, and maintaining that ratio may be enough to edge out the likes of Norwich City, Brentford and Swansea City come the end of the campaign.
The Hornets have also kept four clean sheets in their last five fixtures, the only goals conceded coming during the final 17 minutes of their defeat to Queens Park Rangers.
While Watford can currently claim to be a team very much on the up, their next encounter comes against the form team in the second tier over the past six games.
Like their hosts, the only real blot on Derby's copybook came courtesy of an unexpected capitulation during the closing stages of their game at Rotherham United on February 3.
Despite the threat of relegation now not causing immediate concern, Rooney will stress to his players that they must remain focused in their bid to occupy a mid-table spot before the closing weeks of the season.
Watford head into this contest with the most productive home record in the division, leaving Derby as underdogs to improve on their recent away run of three wins from five contests.
Watford Championship form: WDLDWW
Derby County Championship form: WWWLWW
Rooney has suggested that Matt Clarke should be fit for Friday's fixture, despite suffering minor eye and hip injuries earlier this week.
Will Hughes may drop to the substitutes' bench after playing 90 minutes in successive matches for the first time this year.
Watford possible starting lineup:
Bachmann; Femenia, Cathcart, Sierralta, Masina; Cleverley, Chalobah, Gosling; Sarr, Pedro, Zinckernagel
Derby County possible starting lineup:
Marshall; Mengi, Wisdom, Clarke, Buchanan; Waghorn, Knight, Shinnie, Jozwiak; Kazim-Richards, Gregory
We say: Watford 1-1 Derby County
A third game in less than a week will lead to both managers considering several changes for this contest. With any alterations putting their current momentum at risk, we feel that a competitive draw could be played out at Vicarage Road, a result which would suit Derby more so than their hosts.