After earning a valuable point on Tuesday night against Derby County, Preston North End will go into Saturday’s encounter against Huddersfield Town with high hopes of returning to winning ways.
Simon Grayson’s side come up against a Huddersfield side that has lost two on the bounce in the league, although went five games unbeaten before those two losses.
Both sides are seemingly comfortable in mid-table but a victory on Saturday could see the fans of either club looking at how high they can finish rather than being concerned about drawn into a relegation dogfight.
Here’s three things to look out for in this afternoon’s game…
1) A case of attack against defence?
It is no secret that Preston’s successful return to the Championship is on the back of an excellent defensive record.
Manager Grayson has set up primarily with three central defenders and two wing-backs which have produced a tight, compact defensive unit.
This set-up has made Preston difficult to break down and even harder to beat, as they have only conceded 27 goals in 29 Championship matches. They’ve kept 13 clean sheets since their return to the Championship and will be looking to pick up another today.
Huddersfield, on the other hand, have conceded 39 goals and kept only six clean sheets, yet they have also scored 14 more goals than Preston.
There is a clear difference in impetus between the sides as this revitalised Huddersfield side under David Wagner has seen the Terriers look to play more open and expansive football, which has led to them scoring in their last 13 outings in all competitions.
It will be interesting to see how well Preston’s resolute and impressive defence cope against Huddersfield’s fluid attacking football which, when in full flow, can be unstoppable.
It will be no surprise to see Huddersfield dominating the possession this afternoon and most likely doing all the running like they have done against most sides since the arrival of Wagner.
The main question is will this Huddersfield side be able to break down Preston away from home?
2) Preston needs to be weary of Nahki Wells
As this game comes just over a month since their last encounter, Nahki Wells’ performance, which saw Huddersfield come out as 3-1 victors, will be fresh in the mind of Grayson.
The Bermudan international scored twice that day, finding himself in acres of space in the box to tap in from a simple Emyr Huws cross and also finishing confidently from a Harry Bunn assist. Wells will look to continue his fine goalscoring form after he picked up his 10th league goal of the season on Saturday against Cardiff City.
The outcome of the match will hang on how Wells and Huddersfield’s attacking quartet perform, and whether Preston can somehow nullify the threat that they both pose.
Huddersfield going forward showed the defensive vulnerabilities of Preston on Boxing Day which hadn’t been exposed all too often up until that point.
The loss of Huws will have a detrimental effect on Huddersfield as he is often the man to turn defence into attack, and supply the forwards with the right service in the right areas.
3) Former Terriers to come back to haunt Huddersfield?
Since Grayson left Huddersfield, he has successfully managed Preston to promotion through the play-offs, with two ex-Huddersfield players at the heart of their success.
Tom Clarke, the club captain, has led from the back and is one of the reasons for Preston’s defensive success. The battle between himself and Wells may be the determining factor this afternoon.
Another key player during Preston’s promotion season was Joe Garner.
Although he failed to impress at Huddersfield, he has gone from strength to strength at Deepdale and was the top scorer in League One last season.
Despite his goal return being significantly less since Preston’s promotion to the Championship, he is still a dangerous player that could create a goal out of nothing. Huddersfield will need to be weary of him.
The final ex-Terrier that may feature is Calum Woods. The Scottish born defender moved from Dunfermline to Huddersfield but was on the periphery of the squad for the vast majority of his stay at the West Yorkshire club.
In a similar fashion to Clarke and Garner, Woods has been offered a new lease of life under Grayson and, although he is a versatile player, he is mainly deployed in the right wing back role. Like Clarke, how Woods copes with the trickiness of either Bunn or Joe Lolley may prove crucial to the success of either side.
Preston North End and Huddersfield fans… What are you expecting today? Can the Lilywhites continue their impressive run? Will David Wagner’s men return to winning ways? Let us know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below!