Preston North End starting XI: Rudd; Rafferty, Bauer, Davies, Hughes; Pearson, Johnson, Potts; Sinclair, Maguire, Stockley.

Preston North End substitutes: Ripley, Fisher, Storey, Ledson, Gallagher, Harrop, Bodin, Barkhuizen, Nugent.

Preston go with Declan Rudd in goal, behind a back four of Joe Rafferty, Patrick Bauer, Ben Davies and Andrew Hughes.

Ben Pearson, Daniel Johnson and Brad Potts line up in midfield, with Johnson handed the captain’s armband with Paul Gallagher and Alan Browne not in the starting line up.

Browne misses out with a thigh injury, and the onus will be on Scott Sinclair and Seani Maguire to support Jayden Stockley in the Preston attack.

Connor Ripley, Darnell Fisher, Jordan Storey, Ryan Ledson, Josh Harrop, Billy Bodin, Tom Barkhuizen and David Nugent join Gallagher on the bench today.

Analysis

Alex Neil has moved away from the 3-5-2 he used in midweek, which some fans won’t be happy with despite questioning Neil’s logic in making that decision in the first place.

Yes, it’s harsh on Storey and Ledson as they miss out after strong performances, but Storey was making a first start in more than six months and Ledson had put in two tireless performances after barely starting in 2020.

Squad rotation is key right now, and that may have played into Neil’s thinking, as will the change of system. We’ve presented it as a 4-2-3-1 for now, but could Neil have sprung a shock?

This could yet be a 4-4-2, with Potts operating on the right and Sinclair on the left, with Maguire working around Stockley in attack. North End looked dangerous with two strikers against Wednesday, so it can’t be ruled out today in another system change.

Johnson’s return is huge, as he made a big impact as a substitute on Wednesday, whilst Potts will play a key role – no matter what his position is – as he provides the drive and energy that Browne usually brings.

There are plenty of attacking options on the bench to change the game, and having used substitutions to great effect in midweek, let’s hope the same can happen today.

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