The new Championship season is underway, and Preston’s first clash of the campaign comes at 3pm against Hull City.
Frankie McAvoy starts his first full season as a manager this afternoon having landed the North End job on a permanent basis this summer.
McAvoy ended last season in caretaker charge, but five wins in eight games saw him take over from Alex Neil full-time.
McAvoy must now pick his first lineup of the season today, with some selection dilemmas to work through for the Scot.
Declan Rudd and Connor Ripley have split the workload in pre-season, but there is a chance neither of them start against Hull today.
Daniel Iversen re-joined Preston on loan from Leicester City this week, and comes after a full pre-season with Leicester City.
We would therefore back Iversen to start today’s game, with Rudd dropping down to the bench.
We’re expecting McAvoy to go with three centre backs today rather than the 4-4-2 diamond he appears to like.
Liam Lindsay ended last season in the heart of the back three, and he should start again today despite Patrick Bauer’s long-awaited return from injury.
Balance is key in a three-man defence, and Andrew Hughes is by far the best-suited to play on the left side of defence – especially as he isn’t an ideal fit for the left wing back role.
On the right side, McAvoy has competition for places. Jordan Storey played there last season but Sepp van den Berg fancies that role having returned on loan from Liverpool.
Storey’s strong form last term and in pre-season should put him at the front of the queue.
Josh Earl is back at Preston after his loan spell at Burton Albion, but looks unlikely to start today – possibly not even making the squad.
Greg Cunningham will be Preston’s first-choice left wing back barring injury, and should start there today.
Summer signing Matthew Olosunde is out injured today, so he won’t be able to play as the right wing back.
McAvoy has a number of options there; Van den Berg, Joe Rafferty and Josh Seary are all available to play.
However, we’re backing Tom Barkhuizen to start there today. This may not be the role he would ideally want to play, but he fared well there in pre-season and has the pace to get forward well.
Midfield and number 10
Preston’s main central midfield pairing this season should be Ryan Ledson and Ben Whiteman, and we would expect them to start the season there.
Tom Bayliss and youngster Lewis Leigh will be options there too, as will Alan Browne – but we expect the latter to be deployed higher up the pitch.
Browne will likely start as the number 10 against Hull, with Daniel Johnson only recently returning from his Gold Cup commitments with Jamaica.
Brad Potts, new signing Jamie Thomas and youngster Noah Mawene are options there too, but we’re giving the nod to Browne.
This isn’t an easy one, and there have been murmurings of Ched Evans picking up an injury ahead of this game.
Frankie McAvoy reported a clean bill of health outside of Olosunde and Brown’s injuries, so it looks like Evans will play.
Emil Riis scored in the final pre-season game last weekend and should be given a chance to shine up top with Evans.
Sean Maguire and Scott Sinclair are available for selection too, but Evans and Riis may offer the biggest goal threat going forward.
Preston substitutes: Rudd, Van den Berg, Bauer, Bayliss, Johnson, Potts, Sinclair.