Preston boss Alex Neil switches his focus to big cup meeting with Premier League champions

Preston North End manager Alex Neil
Preston North End manager Alex Neil

Alex Neil has turned his focus away from Preston’s strong Championship start in order to find a strategy to cope with Manchester City at Deepdale tomorrow night.

PNE moved into third place in the table after Saturday’s 1-0 win at Birmingham, that the club’s highest position for some years.

It is Carabao Cup action next for Neil’s men, with City arriving in town on the back of a remarkable 8-0 victory over Watford at the weekend.

Having beaten Shakhtar Donetsk 3-0 last week in the Champions League the game before, Pep Guardiola’s men have responded in style to their shock defeat to Norwich .

In many ways the pressure is off North End against City but Neil is determined his side can put on a good show.

Neil said: “I think Norwich poked the bear so to speak when beating Manchester City, they have responded with a 3-0 win over Shaktar and beaten Watford 8-0.

“Everyone knows how tough it is going to be but we will do what we always do, give it our very best and see where we get to.

“I’m not sure who is going to be play yet and who is not going to play, we will see how the bumps and bruises are.

“We will come up with some sort of game plan to try and stretch some of the most dangerous players in Europe at the moment.

“It is really exciting to be facing those players.”

PNE’s win at Birmingham was their first away victory in the league this season, Sean Maguire’s 23rd minute goal enough to deliver three points at St Andrew’s.

They are just a point off the top two clubs and unbeaten in five Championship matches, winning four of them.

Neil thinks it is a tough one to call in terms of whether he thinks the start to the season has exceeded expectations or not.

The Preston boss said: “It is tough one. Are you basing the expectations on how much money you have spent or on what people think your squad is capable of?

“Or are you basing it on how you have performed in the first eight games?

“It is all relative isn’t it. We have had a good start but that is all it is – a start.

“We need to concentrate on playing as well as we can, on picking up as many points as we can.

“Of course we are pleased with what we have done but we need to go again.”

North End will check on Ben Pearson’s fitness after the midfielder got cramp in his hamstring in the latter stages at Birmingham.

Neil said: “Ben had a virus and only trained for a little bit on Thursday and Friday.

“It was always going to be tough for him on Saturday and it was just fatigue I think. He is going to be okay.”