Preston North End manager Alex Neil says that he will think about squad fitness as much as he thinks about tactics ahead of the clash with Reading.
Mark Bowen’s Royals travel to Deepdale for the second of the festive fixtures and the PNE boss explained why he would have multiple decisions to make.
“We have got some stats back and that was the highest distance of the season that we covered – and we have run a lot this season – so that shows you the intensity and the work-rate and intensity that we put into that game,” he said of the Leeds United figures.
“We will have to recover over the next 48 hours and it will also have a part for me to play in terms of what team to pick for the next game, but it was a tremendous effort from the players.
“Both tactics and physicality will come into the reckoning this weekend and the latter will be at the forefront of my mind, whereas most weeks it is not.
“This period is different from any other, because you have some real crucial games coming up, but there is such a short turnover, so we can’t neglect that, because if you do, you can get caught short.
“If you look at the amount of ground we covered and the intensity we play at, at Leeds, and then look at Reading’s game against QPR, physically we have exposed ourselves more, but they are in the same boat as us and it will be interesting to see what they do.
“We just have to focus on ourselves; home form this season has been terrific. We have two home games coming up and if we can go and capitalise in the first one - as we will only pay attention to one at a time – then that puts us in a good position.”
The game down at the Madejski Stadium, back in October, was Bowen’s first game as Reading boss, so what has changed since then?
“There form has been sporadic,” continued Alex. “They have done really well in some games and maybe not as well in others.
“I went to see them at Barnsley and I thought Barnsley were a bit unfortunate – I thought they played really well – but Reading are a threat.
“We haven’t got a good record against them, for some reason, and that is something we would like to try and address.”
Being back at Deepdale for the next two games, either side of the change in decade, is something the home side will look to capitalise on.
“It is always difficult to continue as well as we have – we have the best home record in the division – however, it should give us confidence that we can go and maximise as many points as we can and if we can do that, it gives us a great start to this run.
“We needed to turn things round, the four run spell we had was disappointing, but it was a culmination of quite a few things, losing key players at the time and the opposition that we faced at that time seemed to have the strengths that were our weaknesses because of who had lost.
“Then West Brom was so unfortunate, but what have done is fought back, turned it around, unbeaten in four now and we want to try and extend that now,” he added.