The relentless Championship schedule is back in full flow and it’s another quick turnaround for Alex Neil and men who face Huddersfield Town at Deepdale on Saturday. North End will be looking to complete a league double over the Terriers for the first time since the 1991/92 season.
The game follows a promising 0-0 draw under the lights at Deepdale on Wednesday night with Alex Neil’s men forced to settle with a point against a flying QPR side who had won six out of their last seven heading into the encounter at Deepdale, beating numerous promotion contenders whilst on that run.
Huddersfield on the other hand will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing defeat in midweek to Derby County as Carlos Corberán’s side couldn’t build on a very impressive home win against Swansea City where they ran out 4-1 victors in the game before that.
Former Preston target George Edmundson along with Martyn Waghorn was on the scoresheet as Derby beat the Terriers on Tuesday night which may well spark a reaction from the Yorkshire side at the weekend.
The reverse fixture this season between the two sides was one of the away days that we all wished we had been there to see.
It seems bitter-sweet how many memorable away games we have missed this season, and the trip to the John Smith’s stadium would have been right up there. After going down to an early goal in the first half, an Alan Browne double in the space of a few minutes meant that all three points came back across the Pennines to Lancashire.
The first player I would like to pick out is Isaac Mbenza. The former Belgian youth international has contributed to 13 goals this season in his 29 championship appearances, in what has been by far his most prolific season in a Huddersfield Town shirt.
The former Montpellier man can play on either wing but has predominantly featured for the terriers on the right-hand side of midfield this campaign, and may well pose a threat to whoever is selected to play as the left-back on Saturday afternoon.
Secondly, I would like to highlight one of Huddersfield’s young prospects in the form of Aaron Rowe. After joining Huddersfield from Leyton orient in 2018, he managed to break into the side during the Terrier’s stint in the Premier League and has managed to get 8 Championship appearances this season.
He’s a very versatile young prospect who can play on either wing and has recently featured as a left-wing-back in recent games as Carlos Corberán has prefered to go with three men at the back. He’s also right-footed so should he feature at LWB, that could be interesting to watch.
2020 and 2021 for Huddersfield Town have almost been complete opposites in some respects. On the 31st of December, we were sat in 12th place just six points of the playoffs. New manager Carlos Corberán had implemented some stylish football and after predicting The Terriers to finish 21st in our pre-season predictions, I was very happy to be proven wrong.
In contrast, 2021 hasn’t been a good year for Huddersfield so far, with just the one win, albeit a great 4-1 win against Swansea. Our squad has been ravaged by injuries due to the condensed fixture schedule and Corberán’s intense training methods which means our bench is full of youngsters where some haven’t played more than 90 minutes of Championship football.
Since we last played Preston, we’ve seen more stylish football, but the same frustrations of individual errors and inconsistency remaining. The new style means it will take time for the players to adapt and it’s clear the club is going to bring more young players through, so it’s going to be a season where we will have to be patient but if this loss of form continues then we’re in big trouble.
I expect us to narrowly stay up which is disappointing given how consistent we were in the first half of last season.
For an XI this Saturday, it’s hard to predict given how many injuries but provided everyone’s fit, I imagine a 3-5-2 of: Schofield; Vallejo, Keogh, Sarr; Pipa (RWB), O’Brien, Hogg, Bacuna, Rowe; Campbell, Holmes.
Score prediction? We haven’t won at Deepdale since the 60s but Preston are also suffering from a loss of form and have only won four games at home. I’m hoping for a respectable 1-1 that suits everyone but if you get the first goal, I think you’ll win.
After a step in the right direction on Wednesday night, Alex Neil will be looking to finish this week off positively with our first three points since Blackburn away earlier this month. It’s been well documented this week that the majority of fans’ thoughts towards the manager and the club as a whole aren’t great at the moment. However, a win this weekend and who knows, maybe the tables will begin to turn.
Despite only gaining a point in a game that was there for the taking, Wednesday night showed a much more attacking performance with plenty of chances created.
Anthony Gordon has received all the plaudits after his performance where he claimed Sky’s Man of the Match award and deservedly so. On the Everton loanee’s 20th birthday, he certainly showed what he’s all about with pace, directness when attacking and a bit of flair to get fans off their seats.
Another loanee from Merseyside put in a very solid performance on Wednesday evening in the form of Sepp van den Berg. The Liverpool defender played right-back for the Lilywhites against QPR and put in a very solid show, attacking wise and defensively, leading to both of them earning another start for me on Saturday afternoon.
Huddersfield aren’t exactly in inspired form with just one win in 2021, but the Terriers fans will expect to see more from their side, and soon. In addition, their away record this campaign has been the polar opposite to North End’s with the terriers only winning two games on the road in the league this campaign, leaving them sitting in 19th just 7 points above the drop zone.
Those stats alone make this game one we should be going into with very much an attacking mindset. With a bit more clinical finishing, we could have had a number of goals in midweek which will hopefully provide the confidence needed to go on and beat Huddersfield who haven’t won away since October 31st away at Millwall.
In terms of a starting XI, I’m going to predict that Alex Neil will stick with the same setup despite Huddersfield playing a back 3 for the past 2 games, and I can see him only making minimal changes after a performance he seemed fairly pleased with.
I think we may see two changes with Daniel Johnson and Tom Barkhuizen coming back into the side in place of Brad Potts and Scott Sinclair which would make the XI read as follows: Iversen; van den Berg, Storey, Hughes, Cunningham; Whiteman, Browne; Barkhuizen, Johnson, Gordon; Evans.
I think the back four worked relatively well on Wednesday night bar a couple of errors in communication which is to be expected given we had a left-back playing centre-half. Hopefully, we will see a similar approach from Anthony Gordon who was in inspired form in midweek and seemed confident in his post-match interview that the “goals will come”.
As for a scoreline, for the first time in what seems forever, I’m going to predict a North End win with us running out 3-1 victors. I think we have a better squad than Huddersfield in most areas and given their poor away record, I think we will get the three points on Saturday afternoon.
Finally, the midweek episode of the From the Finney podcast is available to stream now.