Steve Kean, the embattled Blackburn Rovers manager, denied he has received an ultimatum from the club's Indian owners as his side and Bolton Wanderers prepare for their most important meeting in recent years.
It is usually just local pride and three points on the line when the historic rivals meet. But with the pair occupying the bottom two spots in the Premier League table, tonight's clash has taken on a different dynamic.
Owen Coyle, the Bolton manager, and, in particular, Kean, are under pressure to escape the relegation zone. Kean was once again subjected to chants on Saturday from his own supporters calling for his sacking. A number of Rovers fans abandoned a "pact" to spare the unpopular Kean from verbal abuse after Peter Odemwingie scored a last-minute winner for West Bromwich Albion at Ewood Park.
And the local newspaper in Blackburn followed this up with a front-page editorial yesterday calling for Kean's dismissal.
Kean insisted that a telephone conversation he had with Rovers' Indian owners Venky's on Sunday had indicated he would still be the manager come the January transfer window.
"I have spoken with the owners for 45 minutes yesterday. There was no suggestion of an ultimatum," Kean said. "We had a real good conversation yesterday. We are looking forward to the transfer window opening so we can try and get a couple [of players] in who can hit the ground running and make an impact.
"There is pressure, but we have to enjoy it. From the first minute there will be pressure. You have to show courage to accept it.
"I'm not trying to pretend I don't understand the magnitude of this game but, when I go into the changing room and get out on the training ground, players are behind what we're trying to do.
"I'd ask the fans to stick with us for a game as important as this."
Coyle is taking no notice of the unwritten rule which states that the team bottom of the table at Christmas will almost certainly be relegated.
In the previous 19 years of the Premier League only one side - West Brom in 2004/05 - have managed to survive having been in last place on December 25.
If Bolton fail to beat Blackburn at Ewood Park, they will have the Christmas curse hanging over them for the rest of the season.
"Facts and stats are whatever you want to make of them," Coyle said, who added that his focus is on tonight's game and "looking to get those points".
"There is no getting away from the fact that we are absolutely disappointed with where we are.
"Even given the circumstances with injuries and suspensions I don't think anyone would have envisaged the points return we would have from the games we have played.
"We are not looking for excuses and the bottom line is we have to change it and we are the only ones who can do that."
Blackburn's challenge was dealt a further blow yesterday with the news that the defender Scott Dann is to miss the next six weeks of the season with a groin injury.
Rovers are also without the defenders Gael Givet, Ryan Nelsen, Martin Olsson and Michel Salgado, through injury.
Kean said yesterday that Salgado, 36, the former Real Madrid right-back, can leave if an offer comes in for him in the transfer window.
11.45pm, Abu Dhabi Sports
Writing on wall for Rovers, s8-9