Birmingham City have fallen away from the top six with a run of three successive defeats in the Championship.
It’s left them on the very edge of the promotion picture, but in truth they’re surely preparing for another year in the second-tier.
It’s been a stoic and focused fight, one punctuated with stories of bravery and courage against clubs with far more resources.
They’re frightened some big teams but at the final hurdle, the lack of incoming players in January has thwarted their attempts at a top six finish.
There’s a slim, outside chance that they could still be involved, but any lingering hopes of that rely on a succession of victories, starting with Alex Neil’s in-form Preston North End.
They’re hunting a spot in the play-offs themselves and will be formidable opponents for the Blues tomorrow.
If Garry Monk is serious about a win, he needs to consider playing the following XI.
GK: Lee Camp
Camp is still the first choice at Birmingham, despite conceding two against Millwall in midweek.
Long-term, they’ll be hunting a replacement.
RB: Wes Harding
Maxime Colin is still injured, so Harding will keep his place at right back.
He settled well against Aston Villa, but wasn’t too impressive in the Millwall defeat.
CB: Harlee Dean
Dean has been a consistent performer for Monk this season and he’d be foolish to drop him.
He could be one who gets some attention in the summer.
CB: Michael Morrison
Morrison is captain and will surely start.
They’ll need his leadership skills to come to the fore against Preston.
LB: Kristian Pedersen
Pederson has been strong for the Blues this season, but his transfer was a controversial one which could end up costing them dearly.
On the field, he’s been excellent.
Jota is a top player, but drifts in and out of the season.
On his day he’s as good as any in the Championship, but the Blues don’t see enough of him on a good day.
If he turns it on tomorrow, Preston could be in four a surprise.
CM: Gary Gardner
Gardner missed the Villa clash but was back against Millwall.
He’ll keep his place in the side, but some of those around him will not.
CM: Maikel Kieftenbeld
He came off against Millwall, but forms a fearsome central midfield partnership with Gardner.
Surely, he’ll reprise that role against Preston as it’s such a huge game.
LM: Jacques Maghoma
Dropped for the Millwall defeat in favour of Karim Mrabti, but surely will be recalled tomorrow.
The Blues were lacklustre on Tuesday and need to address that quickly.
ST: Che Adams
Of course he’ll play.
He’s got the magic to change a game, the instinct to pounce on a loose ball that others might not spot.
If they’re going to keep the dream alive, they’ll need Che Adams.
ST: Lukas Jutkiewicz
Garry Monk preferred Isaac Vassell on Tuesday, big mistake.
The bustling Jutkiewicz is a handful and the sort of striker rarely seen in the second tier.
Adams plays off him too, making it a double threat.