Preston North End boss Alex Neil ready for tough Boxing Day clash at Leeds United

Preston manager Alex Neil and Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa chat before the 1-1 draw at Deepdale in October
Preston manager Alex Neil and Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa chat before the 1-1 draw at Deepdale in October

Just two months separate Preston North End’s meetings with Leeds this season but Alex Neil predicts the Boxing Day visit to Elland Road will be a much different clash to the one at Deepdale in October.

The sides drew 1-1 in the autumn, Tom Barkhuizen’s 74th minute opener cancelled out by Eddie Nketiah three minutes from time.

Tom Barkhuizen gives Preston the lead against Leeds United at Deepdale

Tom Barkhuizen gives Preston the lead against Leeds United at Deepdale

It was a game played at a fast and furious tempo, with Leeds one of only three teams to leave Deepdale this season in the Championship with something to show for their efforts.

Neil takes North End over the Pennines for the return fixture looking to build on a good performance at Cardiff last Saturday, a game which they really should have won.

As it was, they had to settle for a 0-0 draw after missing a whole host of chances.

Neil said: “Leeds are probably the hardest team to stop in this division in terms of how they play.

“I thought we found a solution the night we played them at our place, we did it really well.

“Their goal was really scrappy, the kid was at the back post and headed it back across.

“Other than that, we played the game exactly how I wanted to.

“We left Sean Maguire out and then brought him on later in the game.

“Sean made an impact down the sides and it all went to plan apart from the last bit when Leeds equalised.”

Neil would dearly love a similar type of game but thinks Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa will be trying to make sure that isn’t the case.

The Yorkshire side go into the game on the back of a 2-1 defeat to Fulham at Craven Cottage last Saturday.

A week before, they let slip a 3-0 lead against Cardiff and drew 3-3 with the Bluebirds.

The dropping of points in the last two games followed a run of seven straight wins.

“I don’t think it will be the same kind of game,” said Neil.

“Marcelo Bielsa will have been looking at the game in October and coming up with solutions to fix the issues we created for them.

“This one is going to be a completely different challenge.

“We are going to have to come up with something different.”

Leeds will be without Pablo Hernandez for PNE’s visit, the midfielder having limped off early in the Fulham defeat with a hamstring injury.

Ezgjan Alioski who came off the bench to replace Hernandez at Craven Cottage, will deputise for the Spaniard.

At his press conference to look ahead to PNE’s visit, Bielsa said: “Preston are doing well.

“It’s a team that kept it’s players, just the transfer of No 7 (Callum Robinson).

“It’s a team that had a bad moment and now they are recovering and they have a regular way of playing.”