COLCHESTER United head coach John McGreal is expecting a tough challenge when he locks swords with his former team-mate Michael Duff today.

The U’s return to League Two action for the first time in three weeks this afternoon when they travel to take on Cheltenham Town.

The Robins are managed by Duff, who formed a strong defensive partnership with McGreal when the pair played at Burnley together between 2004 and 2007.

The pair will be on opposite sides today, as both clubs aim to boost their promotion hopes with a victory at Whaddon Road.

McGreal said: “I know Duffs well.

“We formed a really good partnership at Burnley going all the way back to 2004, I think it was.

“I was the first signing and he was the second signing.

“Duffs is doing a brilliant job along with Milts (Russell Milton) who we’ve got to know particularly well over the three years he’s been number two.

“They got a good win in the FA Cup at Swindon which is a tough place to go, as we know.

“They’ve been in and around the top seven all season and they’ve been scoring a lot of goals for different areas of the pitch.

“We know that it’s going to be a really, really tough game knowing how they’ve been performing of late and the fact that they’re on a high from the Tuesday night game.”

Colchester are in league action for the first time since beating Mansfield Town 3-2, on November 2.

The U’s can draw level on points with the sixth-placed Robins with a win today.

“They want to play the game the right way and so do we,” added McGreal.

“We’re hoping that we can come out on top in what will be a really, really tough game for both teams.

“On the day, I think it will be about who can show their strengths in their team who will win the game of football.

“The side for whom the big players perform will win the game and that’s what we’re looking to try and do.

“It’s a system that he’s been working on from last year and I think a lot of hard work has gone into it to put things in place.

“They’ve got their rewards from that to date and so have we, so I envisage a good football match.”