Blackburn Rovers change John Eustace is looking for ahead of Preston North End visit

John EustaceJohn Eustace
John Eustace
PNE take on Blackburn Rovers in the Lancashire derby on Saturday

Preston North End host Blackburn Rovers on Saturday and new manager John Eustace is looking to make his team tougher to beat.

Eustace replaced Jon Dahl Tomasson in the hot seat earlier this month, after the Dane departed by 'mutual agreement' following a chaotic January transfer window. In the two games since Eustace's appointment, Rovers have beaten Stoke and lost to his old club, Birmingham City.

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Blackburn head into the weekend's Lancashire derby in 16th spot, while North End are ninth after three successive league wins. Rovers have conceded the second most goals in the Championship this season (57) and lost the third most games (17). Eustace knows that side has to improve.

"We're really looking forward to a good local derby," said the Rovers boss. "We prepare properly, the lads will know the importance of the game. But, there's 15 big games. This is a big game, but we've got another big game on Tuesday and then on Saturday. I’m just getting to grips with the players, I've got to learn about them, they've got to learn how I want to play, how I want to do things. That'll come over the next two, three, four weeks.

"We're not here to do loads of things drastically different. We just want the lads to be more difficult to play against. That's it. There is some fantastic talent here and we are certainly not trying to stop doing that at all. I want to make us a little bit more competitive and a bit stronger without the ball. We haven't had a clean sheet in a long time."

On the injury front, Rovers will be without the versatile Joe Rankin-Costello - who can play out wide and in central areas. The 24-year-old injured his knee at Birmingham City, in midweek. Two players are set to return, though. Centre-back Scott Wharton has recovered from illness and John Buckley - who spent time on loan at Sheffield Wednesday - is in contention again.

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"Scotty will join the squad again which will be a big plus to us," said Eustace. "Bucko as well, it's great to have those two boys back in the fold. They have great experience, lots of Championship games under their belt. I have been a big admirer of John over the years.

"John is a good player, let's see where he is on his fitness levels but having him back in the group is a big boost. I hope he can play a part. We will give him every opportunity to play well. Joe won't be available. He has gone for a scan on his knee so he won't be available for Saturday. We will see the results of that and he won't be available on Saturday."

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