Preston travel to Pride Park this weekend, returning from the international break to take on Derby County.
North End headed into the third break of the season with a 3-1 home win over Huddersfield Town, making it three wins in a row. Sitting in second place with an unbeaten home record and the most goals scored in the division, Preston fans have been in great spirits.
This weekend though, it’s a tricky one. Derby have won their last four home games, beating Birmingham City, Luton Town, Wigan Athletic and Middlesbrough, so a trip to Pride Park is a tough one.
Add in that Preston have won just twice against Derby in their last 21 attempts, and haven’t won at Pride Park since the famous 4-1 thrashing of the Rams in the FA Cup back in 2008, and this looks like a tough game for Alex Neil’s side.
Neil will come up against Dutch legend Phillip Cocu, and the two manager had very different backgrounds. Neil played for Airdrieonians, Barnsley, Mansfield Town and Hamilton Academical, whereas Cocu was a big name player with PSV Eindhoven, Barcelona and the Netherlands.
Neil cut his teeth in management with Hamilton before heading to Norwich City and Preston, whilst Cocu has been managing two huge European sides in PSV and Fenerbahce. On Saturday though, the two meet, and Neil will be hoping to take a real scalp.
Ahead of the game, Cocu has given his verdict on Preston to Derby’s official website. Cocu admitted he thinks Preston are doing ‘excellent’ this season, and feels that Preston are a side who are more a sum of their parts than focusing on one or two key players – and his assessment is absolutely spot on.
Yes, North End have some top Championship players like Ben Davies and Ben Pearson, but Neil’s success is down to the hard work of the team, so Cocu appears to have got North End right.
“It’s a big challenge,” said Cocu. “They are doing excellent, performing very well. I think they won the last three games, so they’re a team with a lot of confidence, home and away, so it’s interesting to see if we can step up again in a home game and get another win, but it will definitely be difficult because they’re a good team.”
“They’re maybe not a team where you pick one or two players and think ‘wow, they make a real difference’, I think the whole, as a team, they are strong – that’s their biggest asset. It will be a tough game but they will know also that we are a good squad and difficult to beat in our home stadium,” he added.