Who could make Preston North End's starting XI against Swansea City at Deepdale on Saturday?

The countdown has started to Preston North End’s opening Championship clash with Swansea City, so too the guessing game over the side Alex Neil will pick for the Deepdale meeting.

Tuesday, 8th September 2020, 12:30 pm

With no movement in the transfer market yet, it looks like Neil will start the season with the same group of players he ended 2019/20 with less than two months ago.

There are places up for grabs though, Neil not really showing his hand during the pre-season friendlies in terms of a starting XI.

Perhaps the best clue was the side which played against Sheffield United on Friday, that one stronger than the team which faced Everton the following day.

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Ryan Ledson will be pushing for a place in the Preston North End side for the opening Championship game

Declan Rudd’s fitness will dictate who starts between the posts, Rudd having missed all the pre-season games.

Neil’s choice of back four could be interesting, with it not straightforward.

He used Alan Browne at right-back for the Carabao Cup game against Mansfield, before the player went off on international duty.

Joe Rafferty has done well there too, with Darnell Fisher returning to the fold at Everton after injury.

PNE manager Alex Neil during the Carabao Cup clash with Mansfield

Andrew Hughes is the likely choice on the left, while there is good competition bubbling up in the middle.

Patrick Bauer and Ben Davies struck up a strong partnership last season but Jordan Storey came back in the latter stages to perform well. He has staked a claim with his displays in the friendlies too, providing Neil with plenty of food for thought.

In midfield, Ryan Ledson has steadily been playing himself into contention since the return from lockdown.

Like Storey, Ledson caught the eye in the final few games of last season and has continued to perform well in pre-season.

It was interesting to see him paired up with Ben Pearson at Sheffield United.

Previously it tended to be one or the other of those two, Ledson’s chance coming when Pearson was ruled out.

They can operate as a pair, though, Ledson taking more of a box-to-box role with Pearson slightly deeper.

Along the frontline, Tom Barkhuizen and Scott Sinclair are likely starters out wide.

Daniel Johnson must surely be in pole position for the No.10 role, leaving the striker’s spot up for grabs.

Unless Barkhuizen is moved into the middle, it is Sean Maguire or Jayden Stockley in the absence of a new summer arrival.