Crewe Alexandra could not have it any tougher over the next few days.
Tomorrow’s trip to Deepdale is the first of a double header against League One’s current top two.
After their encounter with in-form Preston tomorrow, the Railwaymen – who are in 18th position in the table – then face runaway leaders Bristol City at Ashton Gate on Tuesday.
Crewe are currently seven points above the relegation zone but they will draw confidence tomorrow by their recent good record against North End.
In the first match between the two clubs this season in December at Gresty Road, the match finished 1-1 but before that, Crewe had won four in a row against Preston.
The visitors will need to find confidence from somewhere as they have only picked up four points from a possible 15, although they did defeat Scunthorpe United 2-0 at home last weekend.
Crewe boss Steve Davis believes his players are more than capable of upsetting the form book against North End, who have won six and drawn one of their last seven league games.
“You can’t predict any results in this division and Preston will know that,” Davis said.
“They’re on a terrific run at the moment so they will be confident at home but we have got to improve our away form and will be very focused on that this weekend.
“Our record there is good. It is a different set of circumstances, a different set of players – but our good record will still be in their minds a little bit, as history does repeat itself a certain amount of time. At the same time, they are in good form, we’re not in good form away from home, but now would be a good time to change that.
“Preston and Bristol City are the two most difficult games for us without a doubt – they are the best two teams in the division at the moment.
“They are two very tough games and the players have to have a right go and see what we can bring back.”
PNE boss Simon Grayson will certainly not be underestimating Crewe and knows that expectancy levels will be high inside the home stands at Deepdale tomorrow, especially after last weekend’s win over MK Dons.
“Crewe have had a good run results since the turn of the year,” Grayson said.
“They’ve brought some players in with a bit more experience.
“We are aware of their threats but we have to focus on what we need to do.
“We have to get at them early on and play our game.
“We know Crewe will try to make it difficult for us to break them down, as most teams do when they come to Deepdale.”
There is likely to be one change in the Crewe team from last weekend’s win over Scunthorpe.
George Ray is expected to come back in to the team for Jon Guthrie in central defence.
He missed last weekend with bruised ribs but is expected to be fit, although Guthrie is on standby should Ray fail to make the cut.
The defensive-minded Alan Tate, who is on loan from Swansea City, may drop into the defence to form a back three.
However, he could play in midfield with Marcus Haber in attack, if Davis decides to implement a diamond formation.
On the injury front, goalkeeper Ben Garratt is out for the season with a broken leg picked up at Barnsley last month.
He was arguably Crewe’s player of the season so far.
Crewe’s Matt Tootle (ankle) and Ryan Colclough (hip) are also long-term injury victims.