The start of the 2023/24 Championship is just a few days away, and Preston North End will travel to Bristol City to kick things off.
Five signings have come through the door this summer, but there is a feel that the squad is still a few short. Calvin Ramsay finally fills a void at right-wing-back. Mads Frokjaer and Duane Holmes have come in to help fill gaps left by Daniel Johnson and Josh Onomah.
Whilst Will Keane and Layton Stewart bring some much needed attacking options to the side. But with Ched Evans and Emil Riis still out injured there is definitely the need for another option up top for now. We lost three loan players in the summer, with Tom Cannon, Troy Parrott and Liam Delap all returning to their parent clubs.
There is still hope Cannon will be returning at some stage, whilst Delap has joined Hull City on loan.
Youth team players have been the only highlights in an otherwise average pre season and with nine substitutes allowed to be named in the matchday squad this season, you would expect a few of them to feature.
Here is a predicted lineup for the game against Bristol City on Saturday:
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Freddie Woodman will have this place nailed down all season barring injury or a drastic drop in form. He was a key player last season, and you’d expect him to be very busy this campaign. He started off last season with seven clean sheets in a row, let’s see if he can start this one in a similar way.
Bambo Diaby is still serving a ban following his suspension after the scuffle with Swansea City towards the end of last season. Greg Cunningham and Andrew Hughes have missed parts of pre season but you would expect the latter to get the nod. Jordan Storey is likely to start on the right side and then that leaves Liam Lindsay and Patrick Bauer to compete for the middle.
Lindsay played 37 league games last season, whilst Bauer featured in just six. So you would expect Lindsay to start this game.
Although Calvin Ramsay has been brought in to compete with Brad Potts for the right-wing-back position he is still finding his feet after only the joining the squad midway through July. He also suffered a long-term injury last season, and with Potts having a strong campaign, he will go into this one with it being his shirt to lose.
On the left handside, Ryan Lowe has a big decision to make. Alvaro Fernandez will be a big loss. The Spaniard was a joy to watch last season, and has been impressing in USA with Manchester United this summer.
Robbie Brady would be the natural option but hasn’t played since missing the Ipswich Town game with an injury two weeks ago. Hughes and Cunningham could be other options, but Kian Best has been a standout player over the summer.
Capable of playing centrally in defence as well as midfield, he has started at left-wing-back in the last few games. He’s played well and also takes the majority of set-pieces in this team. He’s just 17-years-old and the Championship will be a huge step up to him. But he’s earned his place, and Lowe doesn’t have many other options. His set-piece delivery could be crucial for us as well in an team otherwise bereft of goal scorers.
Alan Browne will captain the side, and with the addition of Ramsay this season, we shouldn’t have to see him as a right-wing-back as often. Ben Whiteman has missed the whole of pre-season, and is obviously a big absence. Ali McCann will likely slot alongside Browne, getting the nod ahead of Duane Holmes and Ryan Ledson.
Another bright spark in pre-season has been Mads Frokjaer and I expect him to sit just ahead of Browne and McCann. The Dane has already shown his shooting abilities, and will be a key asset in this team.
There isn’t many options to choose from as I alluded to earlier. Will Keane will probably start, nearly eight years after his last league appearance for the club. That leaves one place remaining in the side. Layton Stewart is an option, but the young striker who signed from Liverpool probably won’t be thrown in at the deep end just yet. Ryan Lowe has already said he sees him as an impact player for now.
That means we will probably see Ben Woodburn sit just behind Will Keane.
The bench will probably involve a few younger names, including Felipe Rodriguez-Gentile, the 16-year-old striker who has impressed over the summer.
Starting XI: Woodman; Storey, Lindsay, Hughes; Potts, Best, Browne, McCann, Frokjaer; Woodburn, Keane.
Substitutes: Cornell, Cunningham, Bauer, Ramsay, Ledson, Holmes, Taylor, Stewart, Rodriguez-Gentile