Preston North End were brought crashing back down to earth just a few days after their derby victory over Blackburn Rovers last week as all their good work at Ewood Park was undone.
North End had been on a bit of a poor run and Alex Neil would have hoped a win over their local rivals would have been the catalyst to pick up a few good results in a row.
Watford had other ideas though as they visited Deepdale on Tuesday night and controlled the game, winning 1-0 thanks to a Joao Pedro penalty.
It doesn’t get any easier for the Lilywhites as they have to make the long trip to South Wales to face an in-form Cardiff City side, who haven’t lost since Mick McCarthy took over Neil Harris’ job back in January.
Neil is facing some tough choices today in order to pick up some points so let’s look at the dilemmas he is facing ahead of kick-off.
Which formation to use
Neil pulled a bit of a rabbit out of the hat against Rovers last Friday by switching the system from his tried and trusted 4-2-3-1 to a 3-5-2 – which the Scot has used a few times this season but normally only against teams that also play that formation.
Even from the opening few minutes you could tell it was a good decision – the three centre-backs dealt with Adam Armstrong incredibly well and the width that Alan Browne and Greg Cunningham provided ended up bringing North End their first goal.
It was somewhat of a surprise then when PNE lined-up against Watford back in their 4-2-3-1, matching up against the Hertfordshire side but it ended up not working.
North End sat back for the majority of the match in an attempt to let the Hornets have possession, which they didn’t do much with until they won an early second half penalty.
Cardiff have been using a 3-5-2 since McCarthy arrived, so the consensus is that Neil will probably switch to a back three once again today.
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Engine room rotation
Since he arrived at the club from Doncaster last month, Ben Whiteman has been an ever-present for North End – but is it time to give him a rest?
There’s no doubt he’s influential at the base of the midfield, and his pass to Ched Evans for a huge first half chance on Tuesday night was delightful, but he can’t do it all and today could be a chance to shuffle the pack.
It could be a game for Paul Gallagher, who at the age of 36 isn’t getting many chances but on his day can still control the game from deep.
PNE do have a lot of options in that position and it’s up to Neil to manage those players to the best of his abilities.