Preston North End manager Alex Neil is expecting a tough test against Sabri Lamouchi’s Nottingham Forest this weekend, but is looking for his side to end the first month of the season with another positive result.
Speaking to iFollow PNE ahead of the clash with the east midlands outfit, the North End boss has been impressed with the weekend’s opponents, especially considering a tough run of fixtures, that have included Fulham, Leeds United and West Bromwich Albion – as well as a cup clash with local rivals Derby County.
“You wouldn’t have wanted the run of fixtures they have had to start with, but that have done well, so all credit to them,” said the PNE boss.
“They have looked competitive in all the games, picked up some great games, so it is going to be a tough match. They have an extensive squad of players; they have invested heavily and it going to be a tough test.
“They have got good quality. This season they have started well and they will be pleased with where they have got to so far and will be looking at the next run of fixtures, hoping to build on that.
“Any team that I have had, have tended to do well [at the City Ground], but this will be one of the sternest tests we have had. Sometimes you get places where you tend to be fortunate and get results and there are other places where you find it really difficult to pick up results, but I don’t think that is going to have any impact on this game whatsoever.
“We are going to have to play very well to make sure we get anything from the game, but it a place that I look forward to going – it is a great pitch and the fans there are good as well, so it is a good place to play football.”
North End were drawn to entertain Premier League champions Manchester City in the third round of the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night and although it could be expected this will get more from the players in the lead up to the game to try and be in the starting line-up, the PNE boss believes his group are already operating at peak levels.
“With any cup draw, you either want the best of the best or you want the lowest possible ranked team to give yourself the best chance of getting into the next round and we have obviously draw Manchester City,” he continued.
“I think for everyone connected with Preston North End, the fans, the players, the staff, it is a great draw and is one that will hopefully give the players some exposure and it should get a buzz about the fans to have a team of that quality coming to our home ground and it will be a big test for us. We are really looking forward to it.
“We have such a good group here, I can’t see how they are going to up their levels in terms of effort and determination, because they already give us everything they have got.
“But equally, they will be desperate to play in this game; they will want to play against some of the best players around and it is a great test for us to see where we are and they will all be looking forward to it.”
The last few games have seen the manager make changes with every game, but he added that he would not be freshening things up for the sake of it, only if he felt it would benefit the team.
“What I have tried to do it freshen it up to make sure we are not flogging the same players and running them into the ground – particularly at the top end of the pitch, because they do a lot of work for us and a lot of running.
“This is the last game before the break and we have to put our best foot forward and try and win the game.
“I would never freshen the group up to the detriment of the team – team selection comes first and then if I think there is a specific strength of a player, and a trade-off between one or another, I might look put the fresher player in.
“I don’t want anyone to think I am putting someone in just because they are fresh, because that is certainly not the case, but what it does show, is the confidence I have got in the players throughout the squad, as there is very little between a lot of the players and they could all come into the side,” he added.