Preston North End take on Alex Neil’s Stoke City side on Saturday, as they look to continue their impressive start to the season.

Preston have taken 10 points from the opening four games of the season, something only the eternal optimists would have predicted. What awaits them next is possibly their toughest test of the season so far though.

Alex Neil has been able to be very active this summer as he puts his stamp on the Stoke squad. Two key acquisitions are very familiar to Preston fans. Daniel Johnson ended his eight-and-a-half-year stay with North End to leave on a free transfer, whilst Ben Pearson turned his loan spell into a permanent move, joining from Bournemouth. Paul Gallagher will also be on the backroom staff, making it four former Preston employees now on Stoke’s books.

Last week saw Duane Holmes keep his place in the team for a second successive game, as Ali McCann had to make do with a place on the bench. Holmes scored the winner but McCann had a huge impact coming off the bench.

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Ryan Ledson also had his best game of the season so far, but Ryan Lowe will be ready for a strong midfield battle on Saturday, so it may be Holmes that misses out.

Kian Best was brought off in a tactical reshuffle last week, with Andrew Hughes excelling in the left-back position. Potentially we could see Hughes start at left-wing back with Jack Whatmough taking his place in central defence. Best has struggled in defensive situations at points, and having started all four league games and a cup game already he may be given a rest. As Lowe always reminds us, ‘he’s still a baby’.

Here’s a predicted starting eleven and substitutes for Saturday’s game against Stoke City:

Starting XI: Woodman; Storey, Lindsay, Whatmough; Potts, Hughes, Browne, McCann, Ledson, Frokjaer; Keane

Substitutes: Cornell, Cunningham, Bauer, Best, Seary, Holmes, Mawene, Woodburn, Rodriguez-Gentile

Preston may still be active in the transfer window before the deadline tomorrow but I don’t anticipate any new arrivals being thrown straight into the squad.

McCann and Ledson will be in charge of keeping Daniel Johnson quiet, whilst Andre Vidigal has impressed for Stoke in the opening games, who has played out wide and up front.

Stoke have won two, and lost two so far, but did manage to beat Rotherham United 6-1 in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday night.

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