For the past few visits to Ewood Park, the Lilywhites have been backed by anything up to 7,500 supporters behind the goal.
That, sadly, won’t be the case on Friday night, but Preston North End manager Alex Neil will not allow his players to forget the importance of a derby game.
“I don’t think there is any questions that I will have to reiterate the importance of the game to the new players,” explained the gaffer, who will have at least seven players in his squad who have not been involved in the game before – Greg Cunningham the exception of the eight January transfer window recruits.
“The senior players that have been here will certainly make them aware of what the game means to the team, the fans and the club.
“It is something that I do discuss. I have had a good record at every club I have been at in terms of derbies and I have been down the same route in saying ‘this isn’t a normal game, this is a game we need to be up for as it does carry more weight for the supporters’.
“The onus and duty is on us to perform as well as we can.”
Alex admits that one of the biggest differences on derby day are the crowds and extra noise that they generate, as well as the buzz around the city in the lead up to the game, but with social interactions not taking place and matches being played behind closed doors, this time things are a definitely not the norm.
“The biggest difference in derbies is atmosphere and the atmosphere is created by the fans on both sides and in the derbies since I have been here – whether is be Blackburn or Bolton – the atmosphere has been excellent and it really makes for a good game,” continued the PNE boss.
“Unfortunately, because of the circumstance we find ourselves in, that won’t be the case and it won’t be the same.
“The last one wasn’t the same, however, it doesn’t mean any less for the fans and that is something the players have to get their head around.
“I am not sure if it gets mentioned on social media, as I am not on it, but normally, wherever you go, supporters of each team will mention to it, but now, because you don’t really get any exposure to anyone, it doesn’t really get discussed, but that doesn’t take anything away from the game in any way, shape or form.”
So, what of North End’s hosts in front of the Sky Sports cameras, the manager has seen plenty of them, both in person and via analysis and he has been impressed by their development under Tony Mowbray’s management and coaching.
“They are a good side. In the early part of the season they scored a lot of goals. They are really dangerous; their front players have developed over the last couple of years.
“Tony brought a lot of them in when they were younger and he has had them now for a couple of seasons and you can see that.
“The maturity they are starting to show, the amount of goals that they have scored, from the likes of [Adam] Armstrong – where there has been a huge improvement – and the likes of [Sam] Gallagher and [Ben] Brereton as well and naturally Harvey Elliott is a real threat.
“They are good players, they are well coached and they are a good team, so it will be a tough game,” he added.
With the game live on Sky Sports, it is not available in the UK and Ireland on iFollow PNE. An audio pass is available in those regions and in certain overseas territories, you can still purchase an iFollow PNE match pass, with Jonathan Breeze and Paul McKenna on commentary duty from 7.15pm. To sign up for an audio pass, or to check if the live video pass is available in your country, click here now.