Preston North End’s pre-season preparations come to a head this weekend, as the Lilywhites face three games against Premier League opposition.
It is less than two weeks to the big kick-off and games at home to Burnley and away at Sheffield United and Everton round off the preparations for the season opener against Swansea City at Deepdale.
Centre half Ben Davies believes the mix of games, styles and formations they will come up against with the trio of tough matches, will be just what they need to get up to speed ready for the Championship’s initial exchanges.
“They are three good tests; I am looking forward to them all,” the No.6 told iFollow PNE. “We have had three games against teams in the lower division, including the cup on Saturday, where I thought we did very well and now we have a different calibre of opposition.
“We will be the underdogs and we can go out and test ourselves and get that important fitness in, ready for the start of the season.
“They give you that sharpness and the fact that if you are a bit slack or not quite defending right, you will be punished. Against the lower league opposition, you can take it a bit easier, but you can’t do that against Premier League sides.
“It is important to play teams like these; it will be a good test and getting us ready for the opening game of the season.
“The games have been selected well against different types of opposition and they are all good sides, with quality players.
“It is going to be a good week. We relish to play against the best players, because you learn more from them, I find. You can learn more from one game against a top team than you could in three or four fixtures against lower league opposition.
“I am looking forward to the games personally and we will prepare right as a team and give ourselves the best chance of doing well.”
Having missed the last couple of weeks of the 2019/20 season through injury and then had very little time off between the end of last season and the start of pre-season, Ben explained how he was finding the return, less than two weeks away from competitive league action gets going.
“It was a bit difficult to judge what to do,” he continued. “When you get to the end of a normal season, you know what to do and when to do it, but this year has been a bit strange.
“I got into the mindset of thinking I had only had three weeks off, but really I was injured for two weeks before that, so it was building up.
“Once you are into the games, you are through the hardest part and we still have a couple of weeks to the start of the season and hopefully by then we will be ready.
“Provided we keep getting through in the cup, which we plan to do, then there won’t be many midweek free weeks. It is a challenge, but nothing that we haven’t done before.
“You have to concentrate on football 24/7 until you get to an international break or a midweek with a bit of a gap; it is full throttle all the way through, but that’s how we like it, we like to be playing games.”
And like everyone else, the Barrow-born defender is counting down the days until those games are back to being played in front of a crowd.
“For us especially, it makes a big difference. We rely on the fans to give us a boost – I think you could see that when we came back from lockdown.
“They make a massive difference. We know that and I am sure that they know that, so the sooner the better,” he added.