Former Preston star Mark Rankine believes his former club can cause an FA Cup upset this afternoon.
The ex-midfielder will be a very interested spectator when Arsenal arrive at Deepdale for a third-round encounter (live on BT Sport, kick-off 5.30pm).
Rankine was a member of the PNE team which was beaten by the Gunners the last time the two clubs met in the competition in 1999 at Deepdale.
On that occasion, North End took a 2-0 lead through Kurt Nogan’s double strike.
But they were unable to hold on to their lead as Arsenal came back to win 4-2 – taking advantage of David Eyres second half dismissal for a professional foul.
Now aged 47, Rankine – who works as football agent these days – believes North End have a good opportunity of getting the best of Arsene Wenger’s men.
“I think at home, under the lights, Preston will have to play really well and ride their luck to beat Arsenal but I definitely think it’s possible,” said Rankine, who made more than 250 appearances for the Lilywhites.
“They’ve got some key players such as Callum Robinson, who can cause Arsenal some problems with his pace. He’s got great technique and an eye for goal so hopefully can spearhead some strong attacking play from Preston.”
Rankine also believes the result of today’s game could have a major bearing on the rest of PNE’s season. I think if they can ride the wave of the next few difficult fixtures then they can definitely get in to the play-off positions,” he added.
“The FA Cup game against Arsenal could be pivotal for the team’s performances in the next few games. If they can win, they’ll be buoyant and full of confidence to tackle those fixtures.
“Preston are a very organised team and as we’ve seen – having played in that league myself, organised and well-driven teams can climb the league very quickly.
“Newcastle are the standout team but other than that, there’s not much between those in the top half.”
Mark Rankine was talking to Bookmaker bwin