Preston North End are looking to turn their fortunes around this afternoon when they travel to Vicarage Road to face Watford.
The Lilywhites were humiliated at home to Lancashire rivals Blackburn Rovers in midweek, with former youth team captain Tyrhys Dolan capping off a 3-0 win for the visitors.
Preston’s form at Deepdale has been wretched this season, with just one win and one goal from seven games at home – and that was against 10-man Sheffield Wednesday.
They’ve found better fortunes on their travels though after they went five unbeaten away from home, including brilliant 4-2 and 3-0 wins over Brentford and Reading respectively.
Fans will be hoping more of the same will be on offer against a Hornets outfit who are notoriously hard to break down, but injuries and suspensions mean that Alex Neil may have to field a makeshift line-up.
We look at two ways the Scot could alter his starting 11 in the midst of the injury and suspension crisis within his team.
Three at the back
Preston fans will know that Neil is awfully stubborn when it comes to his tactics, his 4-2-3-1 formation is something he rarely budges from.
The one time this season he has altered things was when he went with three centre backs and two wing backs against Huddersfield – a decision he made an hour before kick-off having seen their line up.
It’s a formation Neil hadn’t used at North End until the turn-around win at the end of last season against Sheffield Wednesday, but it may need to come back today.
All four of North End’s full backs – Darnell Fisher, Joe Rafferty, Andrew Hughes and Josh Earl – are either injured or suspended, and stand-in right back Alan Browne is also serving a one-match ban.
So Neil’s hand may be forced to play two wingers as wing backs, which could mean defensive shifts for both Tom Barkhuizen and Scott Sinclair – unless he gives a chance to two youth teamers, one of whom was on the bench against Rovers in the form of left back Lewis Coulton.
Two up front
As already stated, Neil favours a one up front tactic with attacking midfielders supporting the lone striker, but many North End fans have been calling for two strikers in the same team for a while now.
It would be interesting to see Sinclair played through the middle but he may be needed at wing back today, so what are the other options?
Emil Riis is the first-choice striker now, but a pairing of the Danish forward and Jayden Stockley may not really suit.
Sean Maguire has been in the cold since Riis’ arrival as he’s been restricted to just substitute appearances, but today may be the day he’s called upon to partner the man that shunted him out of the starting line-up.