Heading into Wednesday’s game against Norwich (thanks, Sky), North End fans can be quietly confident. Unbeaten in the last five games with two draws and three wins, the mood is certainly on the up with some fans dreaming of a late charge toward the play-offs. The issue of late for North End seems to be home games. We haven’t won a game of football at Deepdale since December 15th when we beat Millwall 3-2 and with the side at the top of the league heading to Deepdale, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this game is a foregone conclusion.

However, we do have history with teams up and around the top of the league coming to Deepdale under the lights and not faring too well.

Last season Cardiff arrived at Deepdale one night in September and they were going well toward the top of the league but were well beaten 3-0 with goals from Josh Harrop, Sean Maguire and a worldy from Alan Browne (one of many, might I add).

Sean Maguire v Cardiff

The season prior to that, David Wagner brought his Huddersfield side to Deepdale and the same thing happened. They were up around the top of the table, playing well and were getting rave reviews but were well beaten 3-1 by North End so, it clearly isn’t going to be as cut and dry as Norwich are top, they will win. Plus, as the old saying goes, if football was played on paper…

Recent Form

In terms of the head-to-head between the two clubs, Norwich are unbeaten in the last 4 meetings, winning 2 and drawing 2 and North End haven’t beaten Norwich at Deepdale in 10 years. To be precise, 10 years this exact week. The 1-0 win was secured by Jon Parkin and since then there have been 3 Norwich wins, 3 draws and 1 Preston win.

The Lilywhites are now unbeaten in 5 after their win against Bolton Wanderers at the weekend, their third win from 5 drawing the other two. The win against the Trotters was also their third away win on the bounce; the first time that has happened since 2005 under Billy Davies. Norwich, on the other hand, are unbeaten in their last 6 games, winning 3 and drawing 3.

The Canaries tend to play a 4-2-3-1 and a 2-4-3-1 whilst in possession with their 2 central midfielders and the no. 10 rotating often and the wingers sitting in the half spaces which allows the full-backs to overlap. This means that they can leave spaces out wide and can be prone to counter attacks, something which should suit North End with their pace in the final third. Depending on how Alex Neil sets up, a fluid front three, similar to what we saw against Bolton, could work quite well with the pace of Maguire and Barkhuizen then Alan Browne pressing high up the pitch. The rest of the 11 pretty much picks itself at the minute, especially the two young centre-backs: Jordan Storey and Ben Davies.

Opposition View

As with the Bolton match preview, this is the bit where I hand you over to a fan from the opposition. Filling the Canary yellow boots for this match preview is Connor Southwell who writes for @TalkNorwichCity and @NorwichCityMFW on twitter. He’s also got his own twitter account too, you can find him here @cjsouthwell1902. Many thanks to Connor for providing this and, without further ado, I’ll hand over to Connor.

Nobody fancied Norwich City to cause ripples in the Championship, not even inside of Norfolk. After the high-profile departures of Josh Murphy and James Maddison to Cardiff City and Leicester City alike, few anticipated that they would improve on an underwhelming 14th placed finish last season. Yet, Norwich’s self-sustainable model has emphasised the need to opt away from high price tags and egos.

In 2016, the structure of operations radically shifted. The club elected a bold new structure of working operations. Instead of turning the wheel and appointing a manager who’s been around the block, they chose to look continentally and appoint a Sporting Director and Head Coach.

Alex Neil Norwich

Alex Neil was removed. Huddersfield Town’s Stuart Webber appointed, tasked with constructing an identity for a club that was soul searching. Daniel Farke arrived from Borussia Dortmund II, the man tasked with delivering a footballing philosophy that would define Norwich and lower the age profile of the squad through adopting academy prospects and allowing them to flourish.

Last season, with the luxury of hindsight, was all about building the foundations. Recruits from Germany took time to adapt to the intensity of the English game and Farke himself had to learn to accommodate to the rigours of the Championship.

Not every German manager is Jurgen Klopp.

Farke’s play style is more classical than rock and roll, with each sequence of play meticulously devised. Tactically, Norwich relies on high full backs, movement off the ball and slick passing. Consuming Norwich has been a joy to date, with numerous goals leaving supporters in shock.

This is a relatable Norwich side, one constructed on togetherness.

In this side, they possess four academy graduates who are flourishing in a side currently sat at the summit of the division alongside players who have been astutely recruited on minimal fees. In Emi Buendia, Norwich has a player capable of operating in the Premier League, in Mo Leitner, a player who was an unused substitute in the 2013 Champions League final between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich.

That’s before you mention Teemu Pukki; a man nobody fancied due to a perceivably poor spell in Scotland. That is the epitome of Norwich’s recruitment style, unearthing gems that need polishing but taking calculated risks. Most of the Championship will be kicking themselves for failing to spot Pukki.

Norwich’s surge up the league table has been due to tactics clicking, a formula being discovered and unearthing a consistency that has stood them in good stead. Farke’s football combines aesthetics with psychology and mentality, that’s a strong combination if mixed well.

They don’t possess superstars, but they can make them.

The cultural shift and working practices have evolved; leaving the club in a proactive position with a progressive outlook. A vertical working practice has been exchanged for a collaborative approach, meaning the club is driven by its own desired culture as opposed to pandering to somebody’s ego.

It feels as though the operations off the pitch have aligned with those on the pitch.

That said, they come into this Preston fixture having played a heated East Anglian Derby which has left several key operators sidelined due to injury.

Predicted team (4-2-3-1) Krul; Aarons, Zimmermann, Godfrey, Lewis; Tettey, Trybull; Buendia, Stiepermann, Hernandez, Pukki

Score prediction 1-2.

Ref. Watch

Geoff Eltringham will be taking charge of the Lilywhites for the fourth time this season. He was the man in the middle in October when North End travelled to Ashton Gate and beat Bristol City, the trip to Elland Road in September and also North End’s 3-3 draw at Villa Park against Aston Villa.

Mr. Eltringham was also in charge of the game that John Dreyer was in charge for against Bournemouth following the departure of Graham Westley as we beat Bournemouth 2-0. So far this season he has issued 90 yellow and four red cards in 26 games, averaging 3.46 yellow cards per game.

How do you think the game will pan out? Will North End pick up all 3 points? Let us know on twitter what you think!