Alex Neil expecting a battle royale for Preston North End against Norwich

Tom Barkhuizen scored and claimed an assi st in Preston's win at Bolton
Tom Barkhuizen scored and claimed an assi st in Preston's win at Bolton

Alex Neil is looking forward to the battle between Preston and his former club Norwich for three points at Deepdale tonight.

It is a clash of two in-form sides, PNE unbeaten in five Championship games and the visitors in six.

This will be the fourth time Neil has managed North End against the Canaries – the club he guided to the Premier League in 2015.

Both matches last season ended in draws, with Norwich winning 2-0 at Carrow Road earlier this campaign.

Neil said: “The last few games we’ve played have been good for different reasons.

“The Derby game was an excellent one, the quality of our play was very good.

“At Stoke and QPR we were excellent – we were excellent in the last game at Bolton.

“Tonight we are facing a team who are really on form, Norwich will come here really confident.

“They will be expecting to win, as will we, so that could make for an exciting game.

“Most of our games here have been relatively exciting, in that we have scored a lot of goals.

“It is a really important three points for both teams.

“Naturally we want to climb the table like we’ve been doing recently.

“For Norwich it is a vital three points to make sure they stay up there at the top.”

Although PNE have won three away games on the bounce, their last victory on home soil came on December 15 against Millwall.

Three of the five games at Deepdale in the meantime have been drawn.

Said Neil: “Naturally home and away games are slightly different.

“At home the onus is on you to win the game.

“Earlier in the season we did better at home than away and we were getting praise for our performances here.”

North End will run the rule over the fitness of midfielders Alan Browne and Ben Pearson ahead of the game.

Both were substituted in the closing minutes of the win at Bolton.

Pearson felt a niggle in the warm-up, while Browne declared himself before the game having pulled up in training last Friday.

On the selection front, Neil is expected to stick with Tom Barkhuizen, having recalled him at Bolton.

The winger had spent three games on the bench but got the nod to start on Saturday as Neil went for a change of approach up front.

Sean Maguire led the line in place of Jayden Stockley, with Barkhuizen coming in to play on the wing.

Said Neil: “What we have got now is variety.

“Sometimes you need a big targetman up there as we’ve had with Jayden, while Sean is nippy and works differently.”