Preston North End welcome high-flying Sheffield Wednesday to Deepdale on Saturday, who will be looking to carry on their spectacular recent run of form and put the pressure on the top two in the Championship.
Carlos Carvalhal has transformed the fortunes of a side which has consistently ended up finishing up in mid-table to serious promotion contenders within a short space of time.
In their last 10 league games, the Owls have picked up 23 points out of a possible 30 which has seen them affirm themselves comfortably within the play-off places.
Wednesday are full of confidence at the moment and will be hoping that they can grab their third successive win to move away from seventh-placed Birmingham and put the pressure on second-placed Middlesbrough.
Their opponents Preston also have ambitions of promotion and will be hoping that they can build on last week’s win at Wolves to mount a late surge for the play-offs.
The club are nine points off sixth-placed Derby so they’re going to need to win a large proportion of their remaining games if they’re going to make it into the top six come May.
However they are facing a side that they haven’t had much luck against according to the history books.
In the last eight league meetings between the two sides, North End have only won once against their Yorkshire opponents.
FootballLeagueWorld writer Alex Grove takes a look at the THREE things to look out for in this intriguing Championship clash:
1) Hooper to score three in a row again?
Wednesday’s decision to sign Gary Hooper on loan in October last year was one that proved dividends as the 28-year-old once again found his scoring boots to give the Owls a much needed boost in the attacking department.
In his initial loan until January, Hooper scored four goals which was enough to convince Carvalhal that he had to sign the former Celtic man on a permanent deal.
On his debut as a permanent signing, he scored his third successive goal for the club to immediately assure himself of a place in a competitive starting XI.
In his last two games, he scored two crucial goals to win the game for the Owls against play-off rivals Birmingham and then scored in a 4-0 demolition of Brentford last weekend.
He is a man in goalscoring form and you wouldn’t bet against the influential signing getting on the score-sheet again today.
2) Preston’s unorthodox formation
Last week against Wolves, Simon Grayson opted for a rather unusual 3-5-1-1 formation with Adam Reach playing in a free role behind striker Joe Garner.
This style of play completely stumped their opposition who didn’t know how to deal with this strange set-up and it will be interesting to see whether Grayson applies the same tactics against considerably tougher opposition.
Such a formation suggests that Preston are willing to play it dangerously at the back with plenty of midfielders to support the attack and cover in defence if necessary.
With Wednesday prolific in attack through Forestieri and Hooper this formation could backfire drastically against them on Grayson so he may tinker about with his formation to suppress the threat that the duo pose.
3) The home side to come out all guns blazing?
Simon Grayson knows that today’s match will be one of the toughest that they will have all season but he isn’t worried about facing the Championship in-form’s team.
In an interview with the Sheffield Telegraph, the Preston boss has insisted that his side will rise up to the challenge of facing Carvalhal’s Owls.
He said: “When we come up against better players, the lads stick their chests out. They know if they’re not on their game then we’re going to be found out.
“We’ve seen a lot of performances so far this season where they’ve done very well and hopefully that’s the case again.
“Wednesday will be backed by a fantastic following and I’m sure there will be a lot of home supporters so it’s got all the ingredients there to be a great game.
“I hope we can maintain the run that we’re on at this moment in time.”
Preston are the only team in the Championship yet to concede in the first 15 minutes of a game this season and Grayson will be hoping that his side can maintain that accolade and also grab an early goal to unsettle their Yorkshire opposition.
Preston and Wednesday fans…What are your predictions for the match? Can Preston put an end to the Owls’ seven-match unbeaten run? Will Wednesday continue to march on towards the automatic promotion places? Let us know your thoughts and predictions by commenting below!