Alex Neil’s men head to the East Midlands on Saturday with 5 wins from 7 in all competitions so far this season, but without an away point in the league as yet. North End’s 3 league wins have all come at Deepdale, but we have fallen to narrow away defeats at Millwall and Swansea, so you can bet the squad will be desperate to put an away point or three on the board this weekend.

On the back of the penalty shootout win against Hull, Preston’s squad looks healthy with the likes of Josh Harrop, Ryan Ledson, Tom Bayliss and Jordan Storey all performing well in cup action and biding their time for league minutes. North End may look a bit short up front this weekend, with Tom Barkhuizen limping out of the cup game and looking likely to join David Nugent and Louis Moult on the sidelines, leaving only Sean Maguire and Jayden Stockley as true forward options.

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That aside, the squad looks to be in good condition, with Declan Rudd, Darnell Fisher, Ben Pearson, Ben Davies, Paul Gallagher, Daniel Johnson and Sean Maguire all being given a free midweek to freshen themselves up for the trip to Forest this weekend.

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As I already mentioned, PNE appear to be in good spirits and are generally playing well. With 5 wins from 7 in all competitions, the squad has been well used thus far and Neil has good options, particularly in central midfield. The only blot on the season so far has been our 2 away results in the league, but we performed fairly well at both Millwall and Swansea in part and could’ve easily taken points from both games.

The performance at The Liberty, in particular, was very encouraging and should give the players confidence going into the weekend. Many people, including myself, would probably take a point away at a decent Forest side, just to get our first away point on the board. Neil has good options tactically and will probably rotate again, depending on how he wants to approach the game.

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Nottingham Forest will go into the game in high spirits as well, on the back of a 3-0 win against fierce rivals Derby County in the cup. It was a much-changed Derby side, but still a very convincing win for Forest who sit on 8 points in the league, with 2 wins, 2 draws, and 1 defeat.

Having already won away at Fulham, and taking a point at Leeds, Forest are clearly no mugs. They have beaten Birmingham 3-0 at the City Ground, as well as the 3-0 against Derby, so Alex Neil will be under no illusions about the difficulty of the game. Sabri Lamouchi is a highly regarded coach who had success in France, but he is relatively unknown in England.

The French-born Lamouchi was recruited after Martin O’Neill was sacked midway through the summer. The Frenchman likes to set up in a 4-1-4-1 system with an emphasis on possession-based football, as anyone who saw their win at Fulham will confirm.

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With some very good technical players at his disposal, as well as some good athletes, North End will need to be right on their game to come away with anything.

Potential Dangers

Forest added to their squad in almost bizarre fashion this summer, with an influx of players signed by new coach Lamouchi, as well as a few signings made by Martin O’Neill before he was axed in the summer, including PNE target Aro Muric.

The likes of Albert Adomah, Rafa Mir, Sammy Ameobi Alfa Semedo, Tiago Silva (not that one), Samba Sow and Muric have all been signed and made a good instant impact. Lewis Grabban has 4 goals to his name already and is always a threat against North End. Joe Lolley is a very good, creative player at this level, and will pose a threat as usual.

He will likely be their main danger man, with 1 goal and 1 assist in the league, as well as a cup goal against Derby, Lolley is a very creative direct dribbler. He has averaged 1.8 key passes per game last season, as well as 1.3 shots per game, and he likes to shoot from outside the box as well, so he will be a constant threat.

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Defensively, Forest have tended to go with British experience, forming a solid base for more continental attacking play ahead of them. Jack Robinson and Carl Jenkinson have been solid full back options, whilst Joe Worrall and Michael Dawson have generally formed the central defence partnership.

Brice Samba looks to have already won the tussle for the No.1 shirt, having started the last couple of games ahead of Man City loanee Aro Muric. Having conceded only 5 goals in their league games thus far, Forest will be a solid team defensively with good attacking flair in the final third.

Opposition View

This week, we welcome back the guys from @ForestFanzone for their second contribution to the site. Give them a follow on twitter if you’re that way inclined. If not, enjoy…

As ever with Forest, things are always dramatic. Only a couple of days into pre-season, the news was filtering through to the Forest hierarchy that many of the senior players were not happy with Martin O’Neill. His training methods and philosophy were the main concerns and were similar to those expressed by a large portion of the NFFC fan base in January as soon as news broke that he would become our new manager.

18 (yes, eighteen) minutes after O’Neill’s official departure, Sabri Lamouchi was announced as the new head coach of Nottingham Forest. Lamouchi’s first taste of coaching came with the Ivory Coast leading them into the 2014 World Cup and the quarter finals of the African Cup of Nations. A spell in Qatar with El Jaish SC was followed by relative success in Ligue 1 with Rennes, taking them from the relegation places to qualify for the Europa League in 2017-18. So, what would the 12th manager/coach in eight years bring to the club? No one knew really.

Early signs have been extremely positive however. A complete contrast to O’Neill’s style of football. A stuttering start against West Brom at home in the first game of the season, where Manchester City loanee, Aro Muric (who was heavily linked with Preston), made a couple of blunders, with the game ending 2-1 to the Baggies.

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Since then, performances have improved significantly. As the squad start to gel and the 12 new summer arrivals settle in, we are starting to see exactly what Sabri Lamouchi is trying to implement.

An attractive style of football, with quick, direct passing, all set on the foundations of a solid defence with a very surprising, but deserved, inclusion of Ben Watson who has been screening the defensive line. So far, with Watson’s Championship knowhow, the dynamism of Alfa Semedo – a season-long loan signing from Benfica, and the flair of Tiago Silva, Forest’s midfield looks as though it has a perfect blend.

In Lewis Grabban, Forest have a superb poacher who just scores goals – four goals already in the league for the bagsman. The reigning Player of the Year, Joe Lolley, is starting to show glimpses of last season’s blistering form, and with some terrific experienced players in Albert Adomah and Michael Dawson, Forest look a lot more streetwise which is much needed for a crazy league like the Championship.

A notable mention must go to French ‘keeper Brice Samba, a £2m signing from SM Caen. He’s come in for Muric over the past two games and looked on another level. Maybe no surprise to fans of Ligue 1, where although his side were relegated, he was ranked as one of the best goalkeepers in the league.

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The past couple of weeks has ignited a new sense of optimism at the City Ground, with two draws coming at tough away grounds in Leeds and Charlton and two wins against Birmingham, where it was complete one way traffic, and a surprising but utterly deserved win against Fulham at Craven Cottage – and although it was a League Cup game, with eight changes made, a young NFFC side were absolutely rampant against bitter rivals Derby on Tuesday night. A very similar game to Birmingham, where it was total domination from the Reds.

Confidence will be high in the Forest squad, as it will in Preston’s. They always bring a very difficult challenge to the City Ground and have become something of a bogey team for us over recent seasons.

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Beating Preston with the form they’re in, would be the perfect statement to make to the rest of the Championship just before the international break, but it’s going to be very tough.

Predicted XI (4-3-3): Samba, Jenkinson, Worrall, Dawson, Robinson, Watson, Semedo, Silva, Ameobi, Grabban, Lolley.

Score prediction: 2-1 Forest.

Predictions

I will keep this one short and sweet. For our starting XI, I’ll go with a 4-2-3-1 as follows: Rudd; Fisher, Bauer, Davies, Rafferty; Pearson, Gallagher; Bodin, DJ, Harrop; Maguire. As for a score prediction, I think we will come up just short again. I’ll go with 2-1 Forest, too.

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