Dundee United look cool, calm and confident as they prepare to welcome the neighbours.
They sauntered into East End Park, complete with goal machine Lawrence Shankland, and left with a 2-0 win over Dunfermline that should have been even greater given their superiority.
This dominant display will have been witnessed by Dundee spies in the stand and the report back to Dark Blues’ boss James McPake will undoubtedly give him some cause for concern.
Victory for the Tangerines in the city clash will push them seven points clear of the Dens men, a yawning gap even this early in the season.
Nevertheless, United manager Robbie Neilson was quick to stress that there are no favourites when it comes to derbies and it’s all to play for on Friday night.
After watching Shankland score twice, miss a penalty then supply the cross for an incredible miss from Peter Pawlett, Neilson struck a note of caution.
He said: “As you know, it doesn’t matter what the form guide is.
“It’s an old saying but you can go into it having won 10 in a row and the other side having lost 10 in a row – there are no favourites going into a derby.
“It is about who turns up on the night.
“It is about who can handle the pressure.
“It is about who can get on the front foot and who can get a lead because, generally, the first goal in a derby will win it.”
The Tangerines certainly got on the front foot against the Pars.
The first half was completely controlled by them, with the home team strangely subdued and even disjointed at times.
Gone was the flowing football they started the league campaign with against Dundee.
Dunfermline got a doing, albeit by a couple of goals instead of four or five.
They were bossed by United and they had no answer to Shankland in particular. Go one on one then he made them look vulnerable. Put a couple of men on him and it just left room for others like Louis Appere and Paul McMullan.
It is worth noting that the former Ayr frontman, who has now scored four, one and two in United’s opening three league games, is about a lot more than goals.
This performance included clever lay-offs and flick-ons that cut the Pars open, while he worked as hard off the ball as any teammate on Saturday.
Shankland’s reward was a double to keep his remarkable scoring run going.
On 11 minutes, he took a pass from McMullan, shook off defender Stuart Morrison’s feeble challenge then somehow squeezed a low, angled drive through keeper Ryan Scully’s legs.
It was 2-0 to the Tangerines on the half-hour and it was a superbly-worked goal. The move swept up the right wing after being kicked off by Appere’s pass to McMullan. The wee wide man then sprung forward to the byline before sending over a fabulous cross that was headed home by Shankland despite Scully getting something on the ball again.
It could have been more for Shankland and United, with the striker deprived of a hat-trick by Scully’s fine penalty save on 77 minutes.
He also teed up substitute Pawlett for his absolute howler, with the ex-Aberdeen man sending the ball wide from a couple of yards out and right in front of a gaping net.
A smiling Pawlett came out to face the music right after the game, claiming his innocence.
He said: “Absolutely – the keeper got a touch!
“Shanks just played it across and I have gone with my left foot.
“The keeper got a touch on it and it hit off my heel.
“I have seen it already. It’s on film so there is proof that the keeper touched it.
“Err, let’s move on now…
“I guess I can say that because we won the game 2-0.
“We can have a laugh about it now.
“Had it been 0-0 and that one had not gone in then it would have been a different story.
“Obviously, I want to score as many goals as possible so I’m disappointed but the keeper touched it and that’s that!
“On serious note, Shanks got two goals and we got three points so that’s the main thing.”
The squandering of those golden opportunities in the second period, though, didn’t take any shine off the display.
Tannadice boss Neilson said: “I thought we controlled the game and created plenty of chances.
“Sitting at 2-0, it’s always a bit nervy as you know one goal will get them back in it.
“We would like to rectify that in future games but it’s three points and we can look forward to the derby now.”
As for Shankland, Neilson is well aware of what an asset he is to the league leaders.
He said: “I know that if you put the ball in that area, nine times out of 10 it’s going in the back of the net.
“He has proven that already but we need to make sure we get supply to him and also get goals from other areas of the team.
“He will keep taking the penalties, and also the by-kicks, throw-ins, and corners – whatever he wants to take!”
There was very little consolation for the home team, with the penalty save the only bright spot for them.
Keeper Scully admitted: “We set our standards this season but I think we dropped well below them in the first half especially.
“There were unforced errors by us and if you give that to a quality team like Dundee United then they are going to take their chances.
“I thought they won every second ball and it is one of the games you look at and say that you have no complaints about getting beaten.
“Obviously, we dropped points against Dundee and Queen of the South but they were games that we thought we should have had more from but I don’t think we could say that about this one.”
Pars boss Stevie Crawford added: “We didn’t press the game well enough and it caused us problems.
“I don’t think it had anything to do with the Celtic game because we knew this was going to be a different match.”