Stoke City boss outlines approach to 'physical' Preston North End test as prediction made

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Old friends reunite as Preston North End face Stoke City at Deepdale in the Sky Bet Championship on Saturday.

Under-pressure Stoke City boss Steven Schumacher is expecting a ‘battle’ with Preston North End after heaping praise on them. 

Schumacher is a good friend of Lilywhites boss Ryan Lowe and was offered the opportunity to link up with the 45-year-old at Deepdale, but instead remained at Plymouth Argyle - back in December 2021. But, he left the Pilgrims towards the end of last year following Alex Neil's exit from the bet365 Stadium.

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Stoke are currently in the relegation zone - albeit on goal difference - and there had been talk of Schumacher getting sacked, had his side not beaten Middlesbrough last week. A defeat to Leeds United left them third from bottom in midweek and now he faces a tricky test in Lancashire, with PNE one of the most in-form teams in the division. 

"Me and Ryan are obviously really good mates and speak all the time,” began Schumacher, who was speaking to StokeonTrentLive on Thursday. "He watches us closely and I watch him closely and they’ve been doing really well. They’ve had an amazing start to the season, a tough middle and it looks like they’re finishing strongly. 

"It’s going to be a really hard game. They’re physical, a good team - they don’t give you an awful lot. They don’t make too many mistakes from set-plays, they’re strong and well organised from them. It’s always a battle when you go there; you have to match that and try to find a way to hurt them with your play. That’s what we’ll try to do. 

“We think we’ve been playing some good stuff lately and getting people into dangerous areas again. The way we played the other night, when we were committed to defending, we’re going to need that as well. It’s going to be a hard game but we’re really looking forward to it.”

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When asked if Wednesday’s postponement against Southampton gave Preston an advantage, Schumacher said: “They were down there on Tuesday and will have had to travel back on Wednesday night. They’ll be a little bit fresher but we won’t use that as an excuse. We have to go there and get our energy levels right because that’s what it will take for us to get a result."

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