There are a lot of teams in the Championship that still have something to play for, but two of the teams that may feel that they’re just playing for pride now face each other at the Bet365 Stadium tomorrow.
After taking them away from the relegation zone last season following his November 2019 arrival, Michael O’Neill would have been aiming Stoke City for the play-offs, but he’s going to have to settle for another season in the second tier.
It’s now mathematically impossible for the Potters to break into the top six so now the players are just looking to impress O’Neill with a view to next season, but they’ll have done nothing to please him recently after back-to-back losses against Millwall and Birmingham.
Their opposition in Preston North End would like to think they are safe from relegation, but that might not strictly be the case.
With Rotherham having two games in hand, winning both of those would mean PNE are just five points off the drop zone, despite their being five other teams between them and the Millers.
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You’d imagine that one more win would seal North End’s survival for good, and that’s exactly what they’ll be looking to do in Staffordshire after a humiliating 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Brentford at Deepdale last week.
Sky Sports’ EFL expert David Prutton has delivered his prediction on the scoreline of Saturday’s lunchtime clash, and he believes that North End are going to go back up the M6 very happy with three points after a 2-1 win.
That would almost certainly secure their Championship safety and the club’s hierarchy can push on with the search for Alex Neil’s replacement.
It’s a hard match to call considering Stoke have nothing to play for but pride, whilst PNE may feel some pressure to get three points to secure their Championship place for next season.
They didn’t show any nerves away at Swansea on Easter Monday when they were by far the better team and won 1-0, and the Bet365 Stadium is a place where they’ve won at in the last two seasons so they’ll be looking to do the same thing.
I can see it being a 1-1 draw though which North End fans would probably be disappointed with, whilst Stoke supporters would perhaps feel indifferent in a season that they probably just want to end now with absolutely nothing to play for.