It’s derby day as Preston North End travel to Ewood Park to face Lancashire rivals Blackburn Rovers on Friday night. The derby will be live on Sky Sports as Blackburn will be looking to follow in Rotherham’s footsteps and do the double over North End this season and indeed, for the first time since 2001.
Three points separate the two sides as we go into the game on Friday night with both managers being eager to get back to winning ways after losing at the weekend. Rovers fell to a 1-0 defeat away at Queens Park Rangers whereas Preston had a very disappointing result at Deepdale losing to Rotherham United.
The home side had been on a decent run of four games unbeaten before their away loss in London, but Preston are without a win in their last 3, and after a very poor January, Alex Neil’s side will be desperate for the 3 points.
Preston are unbeaten in their last 4 encounters at Ewood Park, and tradition is that we usually take around 7,000 fans to fill the Bryan Douglas Darwen End. Those numbers will be a huge miss come Friday night. Whether Blackburn will be able to take advantage of that remains to be seen but it will certainly be a different type of derby game and I think a lot will hinge on which set of players have more desire.
The first player I would choose to highlight as a potential danger is striker Adam Armstrong. The former Newcastle man got off to a flying start to the season when Blackburn scored 11 goals in their first three games with Armstrong getting five of those goals.
Since then he’s taken his tally up to 18 for the season in all competitions. 17 of those coming in the league which makes him the 2nd top goal scorer in the Championship behind Brentford’s Ivan Toney.
Armstrong has been on a bit of a dry run with just three goals in the last 13 games, but this highlights just how good a start to the season the striker had, and he’ll be looking to get back to scoring form against his local rivals and in front of the TV cameras.
Secondly, I’ll pick out Liverpool loanee Harvey Elliott. The 17-year-old joined Liverpool from Fulham and hadn’t featured an awful lot for the Reds before getting his loan move to the Championship in the summer transfer window.
The teenager has managed 12 goal contributions in 22 appearances during his loan spell so far and certainly looks a hot prospect for future for the Premier League champions. He’s left-footed but predominantly plays on the right-hand side with the tendency to take on his man. He can also play on the opposite wing or in the 10.
With North End having a few issues in full-back roles over the last few weeks and this season in general, Elliott will fancy his chances on Friday night to make a difference.
Our friends over at Rovers Chat are providing this wee’s opposition view. You can find them on Twitter here – @Rovers_Chat.
The season so far has been frustrating from a Rovers perspective.
We began the season well winning games and even playing well when we lost. However, we didn’t beat a side above us until the turn of the year and that was something that hung over us throughout the first half of the season. Another disappointing factor is that results seem to fall our way, we look set to break into the top six, but we can’t seem to break that ‘glass ceiling’. Each and every time it happens, the frustration increases.
I’m expecting a tough test from Preston on Friday night. I know that Rovers dominated the reverse fixture but Preston seem to be a different outfit away from home and our record live on Sky Sports is mixed, to say the least, so this could make for a good game for any neutrals watching.
Rovers had a brilliant January going unbeaten, but the loss to QPR on Saturday was disappointing and so it is important that Rovers respond well and get back to winning ways.
We have a number of players that Preston will need to be wary of, and I’m sure they know all about Adam Armstrong after their failed attempt to sign him a couple of years ago. Although he hasn’t been completely at the races this calendar year, he possesses the pace and finishing to cause any defence a problem, and so he definitely needs to be watched.
In case it’s not mentioned enough by the Sky commentators on Friday night, Harvey Elliott is only 17-years-old but has been a welcome addition to the side after his surprise loan move. He can cause problems given just a little bit of space, and he enjoys coming in from the right and playing a ball behind the opposition defence, getting Armstrong through on goal.
Although he divides opinion, I’d also suggest that Sam Gallagher will be a threat all night, and I’d expect him to start. He caused Rafferty and Huntington plenty of problems last time we met and we could adopt the same tactics in this one to try and do it all again.
Looking further back, Lewis Travis seems to be returning to his best following a few months on the sidelines. He’s a tough tackling midfielder and we’re a much better side with him in there.
Turning attention back to Friday night, and I’d expect Mowbray to only make a couple of changes at most, despite defeat in the capital on Saturday. The only swap I can foresee is Barry Douglas coming into the side after missing the QPR match due to family reasons.
We’ve used a 4-3-3 system all season so I would be quite surprised if we changed it and my predicted XI would be: Kaminski; Nyambe, Lenihan, Branthwaite, Douglas; Travis, Rothwell, Davenport; Elliott, Armstrong, Gallagher
It promises to be an interesting match, and hopefully Rovers complete the double over Preston.
I’ve spoken a lot about form throughout this piece and usually, I don’t think form matters when it comes to derby matches. However, with no fans, I believe form and confidence do play more of a significant part and Blackburn will be stronger than us in both of those areas.
We are going through a massive transition period and I will be very pleasantly surprised if we manage to come away from Ewood Park with 3 points. I think Alex Neil will have to try something with the defence to stop what occurred last weekend happen again, after some very poor errors which simply cannot happen in any game, especially not a derby game.
Blackburn had a pretty poor end to December but went unbeaten through January whereas North End only managed a solitary win and one draw throughout January so it will be interesting to see how the two teams face up.
What will also be interesting is if the reverse fixture plays a part, particularly in the North End camp. I’ve tried my best to steer away from focussing on the reverse fixture since a 0-3 loss at home to your local rivals isn’t something to reminisce about fondly.
As for a line-up, this is a stab in the dark as Alex Neil could well have a trick or two up his sleeve but I’m going to go with: Iverson; Browne, Van Den Berg, Huntington, Hughes; Whiteman, Molumby; Sinclair, Johnson, Gordon; Evans.
I think Alan Browne will come back into the XI, even if he’s not quite 100% fit after it was reported that he ‘should’ be fine to come back in. I believe he will also bring in Liverpool loanee Sepp van den Berg to replace Liam Lindsay. This is due to the teenager having quite a bit of mobility compared to Lindsay based off his brief appearance against Rotherham, which will be needed against the likes of Adam Armstrong, Harvey Elliot and Ben Brereton.
I’ve also included Daniel Johnson back in the XI along with Scott Sinclair who were both on the bench last Saturday. Hopefully, they will provide some creativity for the Lilywhites.
In terms of a score line, I’m going to be hopeful and predict a 1-1 which I think given the recent form and the transition we are going through, would be a decent point. I hope to see more of Anthony Gordon who I think will be a big outlet for us and provide the other attackers with a number of opportunities as well as giving North End a decent chance of coming away from Ewood Park with something to build on in the coming weeks.
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