Birmingham City welcome Lancashire side Preston North End in Wednesday’s night encounter at St Andrews.
The Lilywhites will be looking to bounce back from their 2-0 loss at the hands of Bristol City at the weekend. Alex Neil’s side proved a tough side to break down for their hosts but never really tested the opposition with good effect.
Wednesday night’s opposition sit 13th in the Championship, eight points off the play-off places, but only six points above The Blues. So, Preston will need to get something out of this encounter to ensure they don’t start falling down the table, in what has been a tight league so far.
Preston are on a run of two consecutive losses, but did win three games on the bounce before that spell.
They will hope that they can arrest this small slump, and not let their heavy FA Cup exit at the hands of Wycombe Wanderers see them have a poor second half of the season.
LEAGUE POSITION: 13th (Championship)
SEASON BREAKDOWN: 10W- 2D- 12L
MANAGER: Alex Neil
KEY PLAYER: Ben Whiteman
Preston North End endured a slow start to the season, waiting four games for their first victory to come. But when it did, it came in style, coming from behind to thump promotion hopefuls Brentford in a second-half rampage.
They did lose their first five home games this season and there were tense rumblings amongst the fan base.
Preston have been massively inconsistent to say the least, beating the likes of Bournemouth and Reading, but then on the other side, coming on the wrong end of defeats to Nottingham Forest and Luton Town.
Preston have been involved in high scoring games. Unfortunately, they do boast the third worst concession record this season, with a whopping thirty-three. They are the joint highest scorers in the bottom half of the division with thirty. This record does then justify why Preston have accrued only two draws this season. Either they win or lose comfortably.
These results do signify why Preston find themselves so close to the play-off spots, but yet so far.
Away from home, Preston have been better able to play their pressing, high energy game, hitting teams on the break effectively. Whilst St Andrews doesn’t boast the biggest pitches, Preston will have confidence that they can get opportunities to get at the Blues backline, which doesn’t boast a lot of pace.
On only six occasions this season have there been less than two goals scored in games involving the visitors.
Alex Neil tends to go with a 4-2-3-1 formation. It has been reported that Neil tailors his tactics and approach to every opposition, so it’ll be interesting to see if he looks to match Blues’ formation, or opt with wing-backs which he has done this season.
The Preston North End Danger:
The one to watch will be the recent signing from Doncaster Rovers: Ben Whiteman. Having attracted interest from a number of Championship clubs, Whiteman might be one of the signings of the January window.
He scored thirteen goals for Doncaster in just over a hundred appearances so clearly has an eye for goal, even despite his holding position in the team.
Solid in midfield, with an eye for a pass, Whiteman seems to have the attributes to transition to a league above with ease.
Whiteman will look to overpower The Blues midfield, so the hosts will need to combat this area like they did on Saturday.
Whilst Whiteman will be the one to watch at St Andrews, Ben Davies in central defence has looked solid for them, and he and Paul Huntington will look to isolate Scott Hogan as much as possible, and stop Blues from as many angles as possible.
Whiteman will also be key to providing good balls to the likes of Tom Barkhuizen, who always looks dangerous for Preston. He has the most goal contributions for Neil’s men this season, with six goals and two assists, and his pace and directness will trouble The Blues.
There are goals all across the Preston front four with ex Aston Villa man Daniel Johnson boasting four goals and three assists. Interestingly, 70% of goals have been scored by the front four.
With Sinclair’s seven goals, you know that when a chance comes along, he will be there to pounce. His record for Swansea City is there to see, even if it seem a while ago.