Preston North End vs Derby County preview: Play-off hopefuls in very different form clash at Deepdale
DERBY, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 23: Preston North End's Joe Rafferty in action with Derby County's Martyn Waghorn during the Sky Bet Championship match between Derby County and Preston North End at Pride Park Stadium on November 23, 2019 in Derby, England. (Photo by Mick Walker - CameraSport via Getty Images)

Preston North End and Alex Neil will be looking to turn their fortunes around after a tricky start since returning to the Championship season. 

They have had poor results against both Luton Town and Cardiff City, drawing 1-1 and losing 3-1 respectively, whilst they now find themselves outside the top six after the defeat to Cardiff at the weekend. 

Phillip Cocu's side, on the other hand, have picked up two wins out of two since the restart, a 3-1 win over Millwall and a 2-1 victory over Reading have put the Rams to within three points of the play-off places after finding themselves down in 18th at the turn of the year.

  • Key Battle

The key battle in this fixture will be the tough tackling Ben Pearson against Derby County's wonderkid Louie Sibley. Pearson has been a rock for Preston in the midfield and is key to the Lilywhites, but he will have a tough task on his hand to keep sensation Sibley quiet. 

Sibley has scored four goals and picked up one assist in his three starts for the Rams, three of those goal coming in the win over Millwall last weekend. 

This should be a good battle as Preston will need to nullify Derby's threat going forward, something they have failed to do to other teams in their previous two fixtures.

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  • Previous Meeting

These two sides met in November earlier this season at Pride Park and the Rams came out on top thanks to a Martyn Waghorn goal from close range after being substituted on early in the game for Mason Bennett.

The game as a whole was a cagey affair with Preston being strangely subdued. Goalkeeper Declan Rudd kept the visitors in the game with a couple of smart saves from Waghorn and Tom Lawrence

Preston came close in the second half as Tom Barkhuisen's effort hit the top of the cross-bar and went over, but the Rams managed to hold on for an important three points. 

  • Team News

Preston will be without defender Tom Clarke as his contract with the club is set to expire at the end of this month, and are also without striker Louis Moult, who injured his cruciate ligament all the way back in August last year. 

Derby will still be missing striker Jack Marriott as he waits to undergo surgery on his groin. Defender Andre Wisdom will also miss out after being hospitalised after the win over Reading, Wisdom was attacked in Merseyside after visiting a family member. 

Lawrence will also be missing for the Rams after picking up a red card after the final whistle against Reading as he clashed with Matt Miazga,  so 18-year-old Jason Knight could well find himself back in the starting XI. 

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  • Player's Thoughts

Preston winger Barkhuisen has admitted the side haven't been quite as clinical since the restart but believes they are matching teams, he said:

“Unfortunately, things don’t always click and for us at both ends of the pitch things just aren’t clicking at the moment,” he said.

“We’re creating chances, but it’s just not quite falling or we aren’t being as clinical as we were at the start of the season and then at the other end every little mistake is being punished.

“You look at the Luton game, they had absolutely nothing all game and then from one little error they score a worldie. They’re probably the games that are the toughest to take because we aren’t being dominated by teams, we aren’t being bullied by teams."

Derby defender Jayden Bogle believes the Rams are matching the top sides in the league and that they have a lot of character within the side, he said: 

 “Unfortunately, things don’t always click and for us at both ends of the pitch things just aren’t clicking at the moment,” he said.

“We’re creating chances, but it’s just not quite falling or we aren’t being as clinical as we were at the start of the season and then at the other end every little mistake is being punished.

“You look at the Luton game, they had absolutely nothing all game and then from one little error they score a worldie. They’re probably the games that are the toughest to take because we aren’t being dominated by teams, we aren’t being bullied by teams."

Where to watch

The game can be watched live on Sky Sports, or on 'Rams TV' and 'iFollow PNE' for those with access.

If you are unable to watch the game via any of those platforms, you can follow live minute-by-minute updates here on VAVEL.

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