Preston North End aiming to step it up against champions Manchester City tonight

Frankie McAvoy will have the season’s kick-off in mind when Preston North End are put to the test against Manchester City this evening.

Tuesday, 27th July 2021, 8:00 am

The Lilywhites head coach is to start pushing the players towards 90-minute run outs in the three friendlies this week, starting with the visit to City’s Academy Stadium.

North End go to Wigan on Friday night and then host Manchester United at Deepdale the following afternoon.

There is scope to use the full squad in the three games but instead of a 60/30 split in terms of minutes, McAvoy needs some of the players going for longer.

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Preston skipper Alan Browne in action against Accrington Stanley

Something resembling the team he has in mind to face Hull on the opening day of the season, should also be seen at some point this week.

McAvoy says ‘five or six’ players are ‘nailed-on’ to be starters on August 7 but other shirts are up for grabs.

McAvoy said: “In these games we will be close to where we see the starting XI being. This will give us an idea of where we are at.

“It goes without saying that Manchester City will be tough even though they won’t have all their players available.

“It’s likely for a good portion of the game we won’t have the ball much.

“What we have to do then is make sure we are really structured behind it,

“When we do have the ball we need to be courageous and brave enough to make passes to get us up the pitch and offer a threat in the final third.

“It’s behind closed doors which takes something away from it but we need to follow protocol.

“Manchester City feel that is the best way to go with it.

“The important thing is that we get more game time into the guys’ legs and see how we are progressing.”

One PNE player who needs more action is Alan Browne, the skipper having played his first 45 minutes of pre-season in last Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Accrington Stanley.

Browne has revealed he had keyhole surgery on a hip injury at the end of last season and his rehab meant he was only able to start training towards the end of the squad’s time in Scotland.

With that first bit of action under his belt, the midfielder will now be looking to give his match fitness a boost.

Tonight’s game (7pm) could pit three Preston players against their former club.

Ched Evans started his career at City, while City paid £6.2m to land Scott Sinclair from Swansea nine years ago.

Greg Cunningham’s first taste of English football was with City, the Irish left-back playing four times for them after being a trainee.

The games this week will come too early for Matthew Olosunde as he recovers from an Achilles tendon knock.