Preston North End manager Alex Neil expects a few strange team line-ups and results over the last two weeks of the season.
The Lilywhites boss feels that with the intense run of games already played and with another four more to come in the pace of 11 days, that managers will make more alterations that would normally be the case.
Looking ahead to the next round of games, the gaffer told iFollow PNE: “From this point onwards, you are going to see some very tired legs across the league, because the games are going to have taken their toll.
“Most teams now, it wouldn’t surprise me if there are a few surprises in certain line-ups, due to the fact that maybe someone can’t go again or has picked up a niggle.
“Thankfully, at the moment, we are not too badly affected and hopefully that continues.
“We are hoping that the likes of fitness and things like that come into play, because we are really fit and we can run and can get about. There are a lot of factors, but it is not just down to who is your fittest 11 and are they better than the opposition, I think it is much more than that now.”
The next challenge for PNE is fifth-placed Nottingham Forest. The two sides played out a 1-1 draw at the City Ground early on in the season, in a game the manager was delighted with the performance, but frustrated by the late goal.
But he has been impressed by Sabri Lamouchi’s side, led by top scorer Lewis Grabban – who he managed at Norwich City – and he is expecting a tough encounter in PR1 on Saturday afternoon.
“First half in particular down there I thought we were very good,” he continued. “We created a lot of opportunities; they didn’t really know how to deal with us.
“In the second half, to be fair to them, they came out and were really aggressive – we had the goal lead at that point and had to defend and it was really frustrating to concede a late goal in that game.
“We made one error where we stepped out from the middle and then stepped out from the back and they made a diagonal run and got the opportunity to score. They are a good side, but as we showed when we played them, we are more than capable of giving them a good game.
“Lewis [Grabban] is proven at this level; he will always score you goals. He’ll always get 15-plus in a season and this one has been no different.
“He is more than just a goalscorer Lewis; I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves for how good he is. He can take the ball in, he can link it, he has good vision, he can run, he will stretch it in behind for you; but our two centre halves dealt with his well when we went down there and really kept him quiet.
“They have been set up to play counter-attacking for most of the season. I think they have most, or certainly one of the biggest, number of counter-attacking goals this season. They are a good side, with good experience in the areas that matter and they are strong at the back and hard to break down and with the likes of Lewis, Joe Lolley and Ameobi, they carry a threat and it will be a good game.”
This weekend sees the top ten teams in the Championship all take on one another in what could be described as a defining weekend for the second tier and Alex did nothing to dampen the importance of the games and admitted that positive results for his team elsewhere, before they kick-off, could give them an added boost.
“They are all six-pointers. People use the phrase regularly, but they literally are! If you can take three points for yourself, you are taking them off your direct opponent who is next to you.
“It is going to be a really, really interesting weekend!
“I think there will be a few big results coming in, a few unexpected results coming in and that’s what makes the Championship so exciting, you don’t know what is going to happen from one week to the next.
“Other results can 100 per cent give you an extra spring in your step. I remember before the break, everyone talking about Millwall having the momentum and they were the team who looked as if they were going to get into the Play-Offs – and to be fair to them, they were flying at that point. But they have found it really difficult to get that momentum back, when they have returned, which shows how much it can affect games.
“The next game and the next win, if you have already seen results elsewhere go in your favour – which thankfully a lot have done for us recently – I don’t think there is any question that you are thinking ‘we got away with one there’.
“We have to do the work ourselves now; we cannot rely on others dropping points to get there, we just have to get it done,” he added.
Watch the full and extended interview with Alex by clicking on the video at the top of the page as he looks ahead to the visit of the Reds.
To watch the full game, you will need to have a log in for iFollow, which is available to purchase now as a match pass for just £10 – click here now to buy now and be ready for the game, brought to you by Jonathan Breeze and former PNE defender Tommy Spurr from ten minutes before kick-off.