Simon Grayson believes Hull City will provide his Preston North End team with their sternest test yet.
The Tigers welcome North End to the KC Stadium on Saturday hungry to lay down a marker as one of the Championship’s title favourites.
After suffering relegation from the Premier League, City manager Steve Bruce has managed to retain the nucleus of the team which almost survived last season.
That means North End – newly promoted from League One – will have to contend with proven top-flight players such as Nikica Jelavic, Tom Huddleston and Ahmed Elmohamady.
“I think all of the three teams which got relegated last season – Hull, Burnley and QPR – their first port of call is to try to get back in the Premier League at the first attempt,” Grayson said.
“Hull have got a great stadium and a manager who has been there and done it.
“The majority of the players are still there from the Premier League.
“We talk about this transfer window which shuts next week, hopefully the vultures are gathering around Hull before this weekend and they take one or two away from them.
“They have got some good footballers and rightly so will be one of the favourites to win the division.
“We have showed ourselves already this season that we are a good side...against Middlesbrough and Ipswich last week.
“We certainly should have won that game against Ipswich, never mind coming unstuck with no points.
“It’s a another test for us but the players have got to have the belief and confidence to try to achieve a result.”
Grayson revealed left-back Greg Cunningham, who suffered a hamstring injury against the Tractor Boys, will once again be missing from his squad.
And young striker Will Keane is touch and go as to whether he will feature after being absent from the past two games.
One player who comes back into the reckoning is 23-year-old centre-forward Jordan Hugill.
He has served his three-match ban for the red card he received for stamping on an opponent at MK Dons and Grayson is hoping the youngster has learned a valuable lesson.
“We’re hoping he’s learned his lesson, else he’s going to be out of pocket if he does it a few more times” he said.
“Ultimately, he’s not going to be in the team and then I’ve got a player who I can’t trust.
“But look, he’s been very remorseful in everything he’s done since, it’s the second time he’s done it – let’s hope there’s not a third time.
“We want to be talking about the good things Jordan Hugill does in the rest of his career rather than some foolish acts that are not acceptable.
“He’s an honest kid and I am sure that he’s learned his lesson.”