Preston North End travelled to Kenilworth Road on the first game back after the first lockdown in late June, but manager Alex Neil says they will face a different side this weekend.
The Lilywhites return to play Luton Town on their own patch and the PNE boss saw the Hatters in person in their goalless draw with Coventry City at St Andrews on Tuesday night.
That evening Luton boss Nathan Jones chose to switch to a 3-5-2 formation and one of their new traits under their manager’s second spell in charge, is their fluid approach to set up.
“They have done that on quite a few occasions,” explained Alex. “I watched them against Cardiff and they started as a 4-3-3, changed to a 3-4-3, played a 3-5-2 against Coventry, so they are really quite flexible in how they play this season.
“They could start with any number of shapes and then fluctuate to any number of shapes within the game, so that is something we will be prepared for and we know what to expect.
“Nathan has evolved the team with his summer recruitment. He has recruited a number of players we were actually looking at ourselves and he has added layers in terms of formation changes, so they know how to fluctuate.
“They are more possession based than they were when we were last there. They are mid-table for possession across the league and, from what I have seen, they have started to build more from the back. They are different from what they were before.”
The June clash saw North End take the lead just after half-time, when Scott Sinclair grabbed the goal, but the hosts equalised late on, when Callum McManaman scored a stunner from 25 yards.
“It just shows that possession is no good for possessions sake,” recalled the gaffer. “That day we dominated the ball and created some opportunities, but didn’t really create enough clear-cut openings.
“We probably deserved to win the game, but we got hit by a sucker-punch, but that’s what happens if you don’t stay concentrated and finish the game off when you are on top and if you don’t defend any scenario well enough, it can come back to bite you.
“I thought that game was a key game for us last season, but we let it slip away from us.”
The game is set to be played in front of 2,000 Hatters supporters and Alex is looking forward to having the crowd at the game, even if none of them will be in a PNE shirt: “We are getting back to some semblance of normality with fans being back in, which I think is a massive step in the right direction.
“I think it makes the games better. I think that is what makes top flight football or professional football, all about.
“The fans make it what it is and they have been sorely missed.
“I think the fans have been waiting so long to be back in means they won’t miss the opportunity to make themselves heard and we know what we are going to walk into and we are looking forward to the game – it will be an interesting contest.”
With the game on Wednesday night, there is not much time for preparations, on or off the training pitches, but Alex hopes the recent form can continue with another positive performance and result.
“It is tough – mainly for the players. Although our stuff is time consuming and you can get a little bit tired, it is quite straight forward, but for the lads, this week we have Saturday-Tuesday-Friday coming up and two of those games are away from home, so we have travelling to include in that.
“It’s not great, but it is needs must at the moment. We have been in good form of late and hopefully we can take that into this match,” he added.
You can watch this Saturday’s game live on iFollow PNE, with Jonathan Breeze and former North End full back Paul Sparrow on commentary duties from just after 2.30pm. Click here now to sign up for a match pass for just £10.