Cardiff are top...but they're not Real Madrid says PNE boss

Preston will aim to become the first side to beat Cardiff in the Championship this season when they meet at Deepdale tonight.
PNE midfielder Daniel JohnsonPNE midfielder Daniel Johnson
PNE midfielder Daniel Johnson

The Bluebirds won their opening five league games and then drew with Fulham at the weekend, a run which has put them two points clear at the top of the table.

Although respectful of the way Neil Warnock’s men have come out of the traps, North End manager Alex Neil says his team should not fear this evening’s challenge.

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In fact, Neil is relishing a clash in which he predicts the sides will slug it out ‘toe to toe’.

“I don’t think it is going to be one for the football purist if I’m being honest,” said Neil.

“It is going to be a hard-fought game with both sides going toe to toe.

“The game will be different to a point than Barnsley was on Saturday. Cardiff I think will be more aggressive in their starting positions than Barnsley were.

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“They also have a bigger presence up top which is something we have to handle.

“Our lads have done great defensively and hopefully that can continue.”

In terms of preparation, it has been business as usual from Neil for Cardiff’s visit.

Said Neil: “Our approach is the same as it has been for every game.

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“If we have the bulk of play they will have to defend, if we don’t and they impose their style on us then we are going to have to defend.

“It is as if we are talking about Cardiff as if they are Real Madrid.

“They are a decent side and have started the season well but I don’t think they are any great stakes in terms of being miles better than anyone else in the league.”

North End will be without Ben Pearson again tonight through injury, but there is a chance Daniel Johnson could play.

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Neil said: “DJ is making good progress and we will make a late call with him.

“I don’t think Ben is going to make this one.”

Paul Gallagher and Alan Browne filled the midfield roles against Barnsley, Neil changing direction in terms of Preston’s play to use the wings more, rather than going down the middle.

Neil admits the deeper roles did not suit Gallagher or Browne’s natural game but felt they did them well enough.

He said: “I’m asking them to do a job which I’m not sure is their forte.

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“Gally is better in the final third and I think Alan Browne is better further up the pitch.

“Unfortunately, I had to drop them into a deeper role.

“We’ve got John Welsh who got a taste of it towards the end of the Barnsley game.

“John is a player we might have to look towards to help us get through this spell when we are carrying injuries.”