The first competitive action of the 2020/21 season gets underway on Saturday – two weeks before the Championship starts – as North End take on Mansfield Town in the first round of the Carabao Cup.
The Lilywhites are two weeks into the preparations for the start of the league campaign, but will hope to be ready for the clash with the Stags, who are playing their first competitive match since they beat now-promoted Northampton Town back in March!
This will mean it is their first experience of the behind closed doors environment, with PNE returning to Deepdale for the first time since they defeated Birmingham City back in mid-July.
Competition: Carabao Cup First Round
Date: Saturday 29th August, kick-off 3pm
Kit: 2020/21 home kit – click here to buy it now!
Other Information: If level after 90 minutes, the tie goes straight to penalties
Head To Head: PNE wins – 18; Draws – 7; Mansfield Town wins - 8
PNE manager Alex Neil has confirmed that he will be without goalkeeper Declan Rudd, who played every minute or every league game in 2018/19, with Connor Ripley and Mathew Hudson competing for the slot between the sticks.
Darnell Fisher is also missing, along with Louis Moult, who is back running outside, but is yet to join his team-mates in full training after a year on the sidelines with an ACL injury suffered at Swansea City in August 2019.
For the visitors, midfielder Ollie Clarke will continue to be assessed in the days leading up to the fixture after a recent calf strain, but defender Joe Riley will miss the game due to an ACL injury suffered in training.
Stags boss Graham Coughlan is looking forward to bringing his side to PR1. Speaking to Mansfield Town’s official website he admitted it would be a new experience – without the supporters – but one they were ready for.
“We can’t wait to get going and we’re looking forward to Saturday,” he began. “It’s been a long, long time [since we’ve played competitively], but we’re getting close to our first competitive game.
“The adrenaline starts to kick in and we can’t wait to get going. You miss that adrenaline rush and the atmosphere.
“Saturday will be different – it will be hard as we won’t have the fans. But there will be a competitive edge, and you do miss that competitive side of the game.
“We’ll give a good account of ourselves [on Saturday] and the lads are looking forward to it. Let’s go, enjoy it, do our best, and see where we are at five o’clock on Saturday.
“Make no mistake, we want to win the game. We’re going down there to try and make a name for ourselves.
“We want to get through it injury-free, but if there’s a tackle to be made, we’ll tackle, if there’s a header to be won, we’ll win it.”
The referee for Saturday's game will be Ross Joyce, with Geoffrey Liddle and Paul Newhouse the assistants and the fourth official will be Simon Mather.
Ross was last the referee of the weekend’s opponents when Mansfield lost at Bradford City back in December 2019, 2-0 at the home of the Bantams.
However, after five years on the EFL lists, this will be his first time officiating the Lilywhites.
North End fans can watch Saturday's Carabao Cup first round tie with Mansfield Town live on iFollow PNE, with purchases of a £10 match pass available now.
Jonathan Breeze and former North End skipper Paul McKenna are on commentary duties, with replays, graphics and coverage from Deepdale from 2.50pm on Saturday afternoon.
Alex Neil Ready To Face Former Club: Preston North End manager Alex Neil will take on the last team he played for in England when his Lilywhites begin their Carabao Cup campaign this weekend. Click here for the full interview.
Last Time We Met: Preston North End face Mansfield Town in Saturday’s first round of the Carabao Cup, the same competition they last met in, back in 2004. Click here for the match report.
Joe Rafferty: “I Can’t Wait For The Season To Start Again”: Joe Rafferty can’t wait to get going on Saturday afternoon as Preston North End start their 2020/21 campaign with a first round Carabao Cup tie at home to Mansfield Town. Click here for what ‘Raff’ has to say.
Former Player Preview: We catch up with former Lilywhites and Stags striker Steve Wilkinson, to look back on his time with both clubs and to look ahead to the tie. Click here for Steve's thoughts.