Preston North End boss Alex Neil makes priorities crystal clear ahead of Leeds test in League Cup
Alex Neil insists his priorities have not changed ahead of Preston's League Cup tie at Leeds tonight.
North End travel to face the early Championship leaders in the second round after back-to-back defeats on the road in the league.
For some, it would mean the Elland Road clash would take on a new-found importance with PNE looking to get back to winning ways.
But while Neil is keen for his players to put on a good show and progress, he maintains that Saturday’s home game against Bolton in the league is of far more significance.
“I could sit here and say this is the most important game of the season for us but I’m not going to lie because for me Bolton’s more important,” Neil said.
“It is an important game and it’s certainly important for the guys that are going to be playing because they need to perform well, not only for this game but going forwards.
“We desperately want to win but I’d much rather get three points on the board on Saturday and get our league campaign going again.
“Over the course of the season that’s where we’re going to be judged mainly.
“If you have a good cup run but your league form is really poor, that’s not what anyone wants.”
Neil believes that if anything the disappointing week on their travels at Norwich and Derby has magnified the importance of the Deepdale clash with Bolton.
Leeds for their part will be looking to maintain their fine start in the Championship against second-placed Middlesbrough on Friday night.
“It’s a strange week for both teams,” said Neil.
“If we’d have started the season really well then we could have turned our attentions and focus on to the cup and it’s not that we’re not going to do that, but our bread and butter is the league.
“I think for Leeds it will be the same. They’re top of the table and they’ve got Boro on Friday and I imagine they will have one eye on that one.”
Both sides are set to make changes, something Neil admits makes planning tricky.
“It’s very unpredictable and it’s hard to prepare for, said the PNE boss.
“They made seven changes for the Bolton game in the first round. We’ve looked at the lads who came into that team because I think some of those lads will figure for them.”
Neil will be able to make fewer changes than he would have liked after making 11 in the first-round win over Morecambe. Chris Maxwell is likely to return in goal – he played against the Shrimps.
Paul Gallagher serves the final match of his three-game ban, while Tom Clarke (groin) is doubtful and Alan Browne went for a scan on his hamstring injury on Monday.