Carabao Cup is likely to provide Preston North End with an early competitive test

Preston North End and their fellow Championship clubs could be in line for a quicker-than-expected return to competitive action.

By Dave Seddon
Monday, 10th August 2020, 4:45 pm
Updated Monday, 10th August 2020, 6:14 pm

The new season kicks off on September 12 but an early start to the Carabao Cup looks to be on the cards.

It is thought that the first round of the competition is pencilled in for early September.

However, that falls during an international break and most clubs in the Championship are likely to have players away.

Tom Bayliss in action for Preston against Bradford in last season's Carabao Cup tie at Valley Parade

So clubs might be given the option to play first-round games in late August.

It was actually comments made by Blackpool manager Neil Critchley which have pointed to the possibility of an August cup date.

He has been told to have his team ready for a Carabao Cup tie on August 29 should the League One outfit be drawn against a Championship side.

Speaking about the Seasiders’ pre-season schedule, Critchley said: “Our plans are more or less finalised now, but we still have to be flexible because of areas in the country going into lockdown and things like that.

Preston North End's Alan Browne battles with Manchester City's Ilkay Gundogan in the Carabo Cup

“We were due to play a game this month on August 29 but if you draw a Championship club in the Carabao Cup then they will play it on that date because it’s before the international break.

“You just have to be ready to adapt all the time, but we’ve got our plans in place and we’ve got our games pencilled in. But we have to be ready for the unexpected and try to prepare as best as we can.”

North End report back for training on Thursday, giving them a month to get in shape for the opening league fixture.

Plans are in place for about five friendly games, plus the Carabao Cup during the build-up.

In the 1970s and 80s it was often the case that the first round of the League Cup was played before the opening-day fixtures.

That happened again on a one-off basis in 2012 when there was a later start to the season because of the London Olympics.

On that occasion, North End beat Huddersfield 2-0 on the Monday before the start of the league opener.

Last season in first round of the Carabao Cup, PNE beat Bradford City 4-0 at Valley Parade with goals from Tom Barkhuizen (2), Andre Green and Josh Harrop.

They knocked out Hull on penalties in the second round, before bowing out to Manchester City, beaten 3-0 at Deepdale.