Preston North End resume their league campaign following the international break looking to maintain their 100% home record. Wins over Wigan, Stoke and Sheffield Wednesday have meant that North End have recorded nine points out of nine in front of their own fans in the league so far this season. Add to that a 2-2 draw at home against Hull in the Carabao Cup and it’s been a good opening to the season as far as home games are concerned.
Their next test is in-form Brentford, Thomas Frank’s side having demolished Derby 3-0 in their last game. PNE come into this one off the back of a credible 1-1 draw with Nottingham Forest, a game they could count themselves unlucky to only take a point from.
This fixture between the two sides last season was an entertaining one. Alan Browne, Callum Robinson and Tom Barkhuizen put North End 3-0 up inside 23 minutes, before
Brentford fought back to reduce the deficit to 3-2. Robinson restored a two-goal advantage for Alex Neil’s men before Neal Maupay’s stoppage-time finish meant the game ended 4-3.
North End will arrive at Deepdale tomorrow looking to extend a three-game unbeaten run. Goals from Daniel Johnson, Billy Bodin and Josh Harrop gave them a 3-1 win over Stoke, before a 2-1 win over the then top of the table Sheffield Wednesday. Bodin was on the scoresheet again in the draw at the City Ground against Forest, before Albert Adomah’s second-half strike.
In the Carabao Cup, meanwhile, North End let a two-goal lead slip against Hull at Deepdale before winning the resultant penalty shootout 5-4.
Brentford had a poor start to the season, winning just one of their first five games. They only scored two goals during the period, although that wasn’t for the want of trying. The Bees had 65 shots over the five games but scored just two of those.
They had no such troubles against Derby, scoring three goals in the first half – a performance Frank called one of the best he had seen since he joined the club midway through last season. The 3-0 win over the Rams was their first home win of this campaign.
Brentford went into the Derby encounter having suffered consecutive 1-0 defeats to Leeds and Charlton. They were defeated by Birmingham at Griffin Park on the opening day of the season before they were held to a 1-1 draw by visiting Hull. In between those two sets of results came a 1-0 victory at Middlesbrough, Ollie Watkins scoring the only goal.
Under Mark Warburton, Dean Smith and now Thomas Frank, Brentford have established themselves as one of the Championship’s most dangerous sides. Their main issue has been consistency, something which the conversion rate stat above serves to illustrate. But when they are on form, they are a huge threat to any side.
North End found that out at their own cost when they travelled to London last season, losing 3-0 on the final day of the campaign.
One of the main threats for the Bees is undoubtedly Algerian Said Benrahma. The 24-year-old netted 10 goals in his debut season last term, providing a further 14 assists. He is yet to get off the mark in either category this season, but expect that to change in the near future.
There was heavy interest in the winger from Dean Smith’s Aston Villa in the summer, but Brentford managed to keep hold of one of their key assets. He terrorised plenty of Championship defences last season with his pace, skill on the ball and versatility.
The second threat for Brentford is new signing Pontus Jansson. The Sweden international, who made the move from Leeds after reportedly falling out of favour under manager Marcelo Bielsa, has already established himself as a key man in the Brentford defence.
Jansson is one of the most accomplished centre backs in the league, combining good aerial and tackling abilities with ball-playing when needed as well. The 29-year-old’s last visit to Deepdale was a successful one – he was part of a defence which kept a clean sheet as Leeds ran out 2-0 winners last season.
The season before that, he was at fault for Preston’s third goal of a 3-1 defeat for Leeds before being taken off with an injury. That was a rare off day for Jansson, though, who should provide a tough test for Preston’s attack on Saturday.
The third player to watch is forward Ollie Watkins. He signed from Exeter in 2016, has netted 24 league goals in 92 games for Brentford. Having assumed the mantle of leading marksman following the sale of Neal Maupay to Brighton, Watkins already has four goals in six games this season.
Three of those goals have come in wins for the Bees – the winner in the 1-0 victory over Middlesbrough as well as a brace in the 3-0 success over Derby. Watkins’s movement is one of his biggest qualities, as well as his pace and goal poaching abilities. Another player who had reported Premier League interest in the summer.
Our first opposition view back after the first international break of the season comes to you from David over at Beesotted Brentford. You can find them on twitter here – @beesotted.
With such a high turn-over of players over the close season, including the loss of talismanic striker Neal Maupay, it was somewhat inevitable that it’d take a little time for everything to bed down, as players got up to speed with the Championship and acclimatised to a new club, and in many cases, a new country. Head coach, Thomas Frank, would have been reassured that our slick brand of attacking football hadn’t been compromised by the loss of key players like Romaine Sawyers and Maupay, although the league table highlights that we had struggled to score goals up to the Derby County win just before the international break – three losses from the opening six games certainly doesn’t tell the whole story.
I’ll stick my neck out and say that after ‘battering’ Birmingham and Charlton Athletic in every aspect of the games apart from the result, we should have another four points on the board right now, which would give our start a totally different perspective.
Pontus Jansson has been a landmark signing, he’s taken us up a notch or three at the back, and although Ollie Watkins isn’t experienced in a centre-forward role at this level, he’s learning fast, and the goals are starting to flow.
Brian Mbeumo is another big signing for the Bees and has a massive future in the game. Recently promoted to the French under-21 side, where he scored and set up a couple in his first two appearances, he’s another that is getting stronger by the week and is certainly one to look out for on Saturday. Having Said Benrahma back in the team after an injury is a massive shot in the arm too.
Recent matches against PNE have seen plenty of goals, with both sides looking to get the ball down and play open and attacking football, and I predict more of the same at Deepdale this time round too. The Bees will be desperate to carry on where they left off against the Rams, and desperate not to make the same mistakes as a year ago when we found ourselves out for the count so early in the match.
XI Prediction: Raya; Dasgaard, Jansson, Jeanvier, Canos; Mokotjo, Norgaard, Henry, Mbeumo, Watkins, Benrahma.
Score Brentford to win 2-1.
This is another difficult one to predict, but there are always goals when PNE and Brentford face off. In fact, in the 8 games we’ve played against one another at this level, there have been 35 goals. An average of 4.375 goals per game.
North End have scored at least twice in all their home games so far, and I predict that run to continue, although Brentford’s abilities going forward will provide a stern test for our defence.
Score – PNE 3-1 Brentford. As for our team on the day, here’s my XI prediction – Rudd; Fisher, Bauer, Davies, Rafferty; Pearson, Gallagher; Bodin, Johnson, Harrop; Green.