It’s a new match week and the same old story for Stoke City who again take on a team sitting in the top ten of the Championship table. This time The Potters find themselves traveling to take on Preston North End on Saturday.
Stoke City, coming off of a busy schedule last week playing three matches in seven days, took four of the possible nine points that were up for grabs. After a couple of Championship matches midweek from other clubs (one of those clubs being Preston), The Potters go into Saturday at 17th on the table with 16 points.
As for Preston, they find themselves at 8th on the table with 19 points. The aforementioned midweek 2-1 loss to Bristol City saw them drop crucial points in what would have been a chance to go up the table farther.
One of the biggest stories going into this weekend’s match for Stoke City outside of the possibility of gaining more points, is Stoke manager Alex Neil returning to take on his old club. Neil, before going to Sunderland, spent close to four years with Preston North End between 2017 and 2021 – Which should give Neil extra motivation for Stoke to perform well on Saturday.
How will Stoke City line up against Preston?
Stoke City Predicted Formation: 4-3-3
Leading up to Stoke’s last match against Sheffield United, Alex Neil had consistently said that The Potters weren’t equipped to necessarily play with a back four. Well, just like every manager does from time-to-time, Neil was apparently being coy.
Against Sheffield United, Neil chose to play with more of a back four in a 4-3-3. In possession you can argue Stoke City against The Blades still played closer to a 3-5-2 or even a 3-4-3 – but technically it was a 4-3-3.
With the success Stoke City had in their last outing, one would expect something similar from Stoke City on Saturday with formation and tactics. This is especially true given Preston’s willingness to play in a low block at times.
Starting XI Prediction: Bursik – Fox – Wilmot – Jagielka – Sterling – Smallbone – Thompson – Baker – Fosu – Campbell – Delap
The biggest changes to the team’s starting XI from last Saturday could come in the form of Jordan Thompson and Liam Delap.
Thompson, who finally cleared concussion protocol late last week returned to the team’s matchday squad as a substitute. Another week of rest might give Thompson enough of a chance to be fully fit to return to the team’s starting midfield on Saturday.
Then when it comes to Delap, he was given a breather last weekend as a starter. That won’t continue for much longer. Delap, who came off the bench and scored a late goal last week, should be back in Neil’s starting XI.
Preston Continue to Struggle in Attack
Saturday’s match for Stoke City is another golden opportunity. Not only does it mean a possible three points against a team sitting 8th on the table, but it’s against a top-table club that is there for the taking in terms of points.
Preston are a very good defensive team. With only eight goals conceded, Preston sits at first in the Championship when it comes to conceding goals. That comes in part because of how Preston will sink into a low block defensively.
But on the offensive side of things, that’s where it hasn’t been as kind for the club. Preston have only scored eight goals this season, which makes them tied for last in the Championship with Coventry. However in upcoming games, Preston could struggle even more with finding goals.
Preston striker Troy Parrott, who is on loan from Tottenham, suffered a knee injury last weekend. According to BBC Sport, Parrott will be out until after the World Cup. Meaning, a goal starved club in Preston could find themselves even more starved now without their starting center-forward.
With Parrott’s injury and Preston already showing a lack of teeth in attack, one would say this is a prime match for Stoke City to walk away with a clean sheet. A clean sheet would ensure Stoke City at least a point on the road.
Three Keys for Stoke City vs. Preston:
- The first key for Stoke City will be to remain steadfast defensively. When you play a team like Preston who play so tight defensively, even one goal given up from Stoke could spell a terrible result.
- That’s why the second key for Stoke City will be to win the race to the first goal in the match. If Preston score first, they’d probably be very happy to sink in defensively and play for a 1-0 result. If Stoke City can score first though, Preston could be faced with trying to play on their front foot more. The first goal on Saturday will be huge for either club.
- The third key for Stoke City will be to again find ways to let Tariqe Fosu be creative, just as he was against Sheffield United last Saturday. Fosu was a difference maker in attack for Stoke and if he can continue to keep up that level of play, it’ll only keep unlocking goals for him and others on the club.
Breaking down a stingy defensive team like Preston is always tough. Which is why Fosu again being creative will be massive for Stoke City to help unlock Preston’s low block.
He’ll need help though from Tyrese Campbell who has looked very inventive in recent weeks. As well as Dujon Sterling who has been looking strong with his runs down the wings for Stoke City.
If Stoke City can get those offensive contributions that they showed in their last match and continue to play tough defensively, a positive result is in the cards for Stoke City against Preston.
Stoke City grab three points, 2-0 Stoke City win.