After a rocky start to Carlos Corberan’s reign as head coach, failing to score in their opening three matches, the Terriers have taken 10 points from their last four games to head into Saturday’s contest just a point outside the Championship play-off places.
While they have not yet hit spectacular heights – ironically the best performance of the four was arguably the draw at Rotherham United, when they needed an injury-time own goal to take a point – there are plenty of encouraging signs that his high-tempo, all-action style is already being implemented with success.
The congested schedule will provide a good test considering Corberan’s fitness demands, but the pressure for results has at least been abated by last weekend’s impressive win at Swansea City, followed by a scrappy win over Derby County on Tuesday night.
That gives them one extra win on the board compared to Preston, who have only begun to hit their straps in recent weeks, coming from behind to win at Brentford before the international break and then coming back from London with three points again earlier this week at QPR.
They have lost all three home league games 1-0 so far this season, something manager Alex Neil puts down to teams sitting deep at Deepdale and frustrating them. At least he needn’t worry about that against this Huddersfield team, who ought to provide an expansive game for both to enjoy, and Preston will hope to continue their newfound liking for away days with a first ever victory at the John Smith’s Stadium.
Huddersfield will have the same group of players available as they did in midweek, with Danny Ward (hamstring) not quite ready to return. New midfield signing Alex Vellejo remains in quarantine after arriving at the club from Spain.
Neil gave no clues in his pre-match press conference as to whether Ben Davies and Ben Pearson, who missed the win over QPR, would be fit again for this match. Darnell Fisher (hamstring) and Louis Moult (knee) remain out.
Huddersfield: Hamer; Pipa, Schindler, Sarr, Toffolo; Hogg, Bacuna, O’Brien; Koroma, Campbell, Mbenza.
Preston: Rudd; Rafferty, Bauer, Storey, Hughes; Browne, Ledson; Potts, Johnson, Sinclair; Riis.
What the managers have said
Huddersfield boss Corberan anticipates a competitive clash against a Preston side who he expects to put them under plenty of pressure.
He said: “They’re in their fourth year now with Alex Neil, he’s working very well with this team in creating one identity, being a very aggressive team without the ball. It’s a team that always push opponents in the high press.
“When you play against them, you need to prepare well because you know they’re going to be aggressive in the pressing and making very good things with the football.
“We know that it’s going to be a challenge, we know that it’s going to be another very demanding game with a different type of circumstances to the previous game but this is always how we need to prepare for the games, knowing that every opponent is going to demand our best to get something positive.”
His counterpart Neil acknowledges the very different style of the Spaniard’s Huddersfield side, compared to the one his team faced last season under Danny Cowley.
“It’s extremely different from before. The way they play and function, their strategy and what they want to do is the opposite of what they wanted to do before,” he said. “They’re strong, they’re physical, they make the pitch big, they press extremely hard.”
Neil is concerned that Huddersfield have had an extra day of recovery and preparation having played a day earlier in midweek, while his own team had to travel back from London on Wednesday night.
He said: “Unfortunately for us, our fixtures have been horrific. We’re a day down against a team that want a run; we equally want a run, but that’s a big advantage for them.
“It’s all about recovery know and making sure they’ve got freshness in their legs because I assure you in this game there will be a lot of running needed.”
This has not traditionally been a fixture for away teams. Preston haven’t won in Huddersfield since they were still playing at Leeds Road, in 1992, while Town have not won at Deepdale since 1969.
Preston did at least take a point from their last trip to this corner of Yorkshire though, a dour stalemate in July that featured just one shot on target.