Preston North End team predicted for Stoke City clash as Ryan Lowe faces tough call

Preston North End's Andrew Hughes Preston North End's Andrew Hughes
Preston North End's Andrew Hughes | Andrew Kearns, Camera Sport
PNE’s fifth and final match before the first international break of the season

Preston North End manager Ryan Lowe could be tempted into a couple of changes for this afternoon’s match at Stoke City.

The Lilywhites have picked up 10 points from their first four Championship games, with Saturday’s trip to the Potteries the final fixture before the first international break. Lowe added two new players to his squad on transfer deadline day, but neither Liam Millar or Milutin Osmajic were signed in time to feature at the bet365 Stadium.

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Robbie Brady, Emil Riis, Calvin Ramsay and Ched Evans remain on the sidelines, while Ben Whiteman could return to the match day squad for the first time this season. The number four missed all of pre-season following a hernia operation, but is closing in on a return to action for Preston. However, Lowe is wary of pushing him too far, too soon.

When asked about Whiteman, the PNE boss said on Thursday: “He’s available, yeah. It is whether I risk him. He’s trained the last week, been fantastic and is champing at the bit. But, a player of Ben’s quality cannot just be thrust back in and risked. So, we will see how he trains today with the squad.

“Whether I take him, or choose to use him, will depend on today. He’s available, but not 100 per cent fit - nowhere near. He needs games and we’ll probably need to get one in soon for him - next week probably, maybe an 11v11. We will get minutes into him, but he’s feeling good and he’s in a good place.”

It would be a surprise to see Whiteman play anything other than a minor part, based on Lowe’s comments. Ali McCann could come back into the team, though, after impacting last weekend’s win over Swansea City from the bench. Duane Holmes losing his place would be harsh, mind, given his performance against the Swans.

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Lowe changed to a 4-2-3-1 shape last Saturday and it paid off, so that must be in his thinking for the trip to Stoke - who have shown their flexible nature under ex-PNE boss Alex Neil. If Lowe sticks with 3-4-2-1 then he will likely need to place further, huge trust in youngster Kian Best - who played 63 minutes last Saturday.

That would be a tough assignment up against the dangerous and athletic Ki-Jana Hoever. The Preston manager’s other option would be to play Andrew Hughes at left wing-back and bring either Jack Whatmough, Patrick Bauer or Greg Cunningham into his central back three. Elsewhere, Will Keane should lead the line while Brad Potts, Ryan Ledson, Mads Frokjaer and Alan Browne are expected to start again.

Predicted PNE XI: Woodman; Potts, Storey, Lindsay, Hughes, Ledson, McCann, Holmes, Browne, Frokjaer, Keane

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