Preston North End kick off their Championship campaign this weekend, hosting Swansea City at Deepdale on Saturday afternoon.
It doesn’t feel like long since North End finally wrapped up the 2019-20 season with a 1-1 draw at Bristol City, and games remain behind closed doors as the season gets underway.
The global pandemic continues, and Preston will be desperate to get off to a great start having slipped out of the playoff race towards the end of last term.
With no new signings to speak of at the time of writing, there aren’t any incomings to factor into the potential lineup to take on Swansea.
There are though injuries, with Declan Rudd still missing having been ruled out in pre-season. It’s unlikely that he will return in the coming days, and Connor Ripley will likely start the season in goal.
Darnell Fisher only played his first football of pre-season in the 2-0 defeat at Everton last weekend, and we’re expecting Alan Browne to get the nod over Joe Rafferty at right back.
Patrick Bauer and Ben Davies should start the season as first-choice centre backs, whilst we’re going with Josh Earl over Andrew Hughes at left back after a strong pre-season.
Ryan Ledson has continued to impress in pre-season after some great post-lockdown displays, and we think Alex Neil will go with him alongside Ben Pearson in the heart of midfield.
Scott Sinclair looked very sharp against Sheffield United last Friday, so we’re going with him on the left flank, Tom Barkhuizen on the right and Daniel Johnson as the number 10.
With no new striker brought in this summer, we’re guessing that Seani Maguire will be picked ahead of Jayden Stockley, offering more mobility and pressing to combat Swansea playing out from the back.
In truth, we had a harder time picking the substitutes than the starting XI. Neil has great options at his disposal, and it will ultimately start with Mathew Hudson as the goalkeeper on the bench.
After that, it’s anybody’s game. We’ll guess at Jordan Storey and Joe Rafferty as defensive cover, with Rafferty able to play on both sides. Paul Gallagher will likely get the nod ahead of Tom Bayliss, whilst Brad Potts and Josh Harrop can offer thrust and guile in the final third.
Jayden Stockley would then fill the last spot on the bench, meaning the likes of Paul Huntington, Darnell Fisher, Andrew Hughes, Tom Bayliss, Billy Bodin and Ethan Walker would miss out on the matchday squad, which is a touch harsh but ultimately a sign of the quality North End possess.