West Bromwich Albion vs Preston North End Preview: Baggies look to extend their lead at the top
 (Photo by Kevin Barnes - CameraSport via Getty Images)

Putting a run of poor form behind them, West Bromwich Albion have emerged as the league leaders as Championship season heads into its final quarter.

The Baggies sit top of the table, four points ahead of second placed Leeds United, and nine points ahead of Fulham in third.

Tuesday nights fixture pits the table-toppers against sixth place Preston North End.

The Lillywhites are vying to compete in the Premier League for the first time in their history, being the only former first division title winners yet to play in its Premier League reincarnation.

The reverse fixture between these sides saw West Brom deliver Preston their third straight defeat, with Charlie Austin scoring a 90th minute penalty in a 1-0 victory for the Baggies.

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  • Current Form

 

Form will be irrelevant come Tuesday night, with the sides sitting first and second in the last six games table.

Last time out West Brom annihilated Bristol City at Ashton Gate, running out 3-0 winners against Lee Johnson’s side.

Slaven Bilic’s men haven’t lost in any of their last five games, with four wins, and a draw against play-off contenders Nottingham Forest. In the same period they have scored eleven and conceded just three.

As for the visitors, they boast a record of just one defeat in their last eight outings.

In their last match, PNE overcame a half-time scoreline of 1-0 to beat Hull City at Deepdale, a result which meant they bounced back from defeat to Millwall the previous week.

West Brom will need to be efficient in front of goal as North End’s record of just four goals conceded in the last six is the best in the division over that period. 

  • What to Expect

 

Preston are the league’s best home team, picking up thirty-six points from eighteen games. On the road however, Alex Neil’s side rank mid-table, with more losses than wins when away from Deepdale.

Preston’s home record is partly due to their goalscoring. Only one team in the division matches their goal tally at home- West Bromwich Albion. The Baggies have scored thirty-four at home, losing just two matches at the Hawthorns all season.

Away from home no side plays as many long balls as Preston. Their average of eighty-nine long passes per game is thirty more than West Brom attempt at home- indicating two differing style of plays will clash on Tuesday.

However, this may present opportunities for Preston. The Lillywhites win an average of twenty-nine aerial duels per game, nine more than West Brom, suggesting the visitors will look to take advantage of the Baggies aerial weaknesses.

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  • Team News

 

Bilic has a potential headache decision to make, with holding midfielder Romaine Sawyers out due to suspension.

As a result he may drop creative midfielder Filip Krovinovic deeper, allowing January recruit Kamil Grosicki into the fold out wide.

As for Preston, Daniel Johnson is suspected to miss this encounter, joining an injury list that contains Lewis Moult and Billy Bodin on the sidelines.

  • Key Men

 

One of the Championship’s most creative forces this season has been that of Matheus Pereira. The Brazilian can operate on either wing or behind the striker and has enough flair and invention to spark fear into defences.

Pereira has six goals this season, yet it his ability to supply which has attracted admirers. His twelve assists rank as the most in the division; if Preston are to keep out West Brom they will have to keep the 23-year-old quiet.

The man who is most likely the one to combat Pereira is Ben Pearson. The defensive midfielder is Preston’s aggressor, hard in the tackle and composed on the ball. Pearson makes two tackles per game plus over one interception, a vital cog in Preston’s strong defensive unit.

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