Selection dilemmas for Preston North End boss Alex Neil as Stoke City visit Deepdale

Preston boss Alex Neil thinks more selection dilemmas have been thrown his way in the first couple of weeks of this season than they were in the whole of the last campaign.
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Neil says there are ‘three or four’ positions in particular which are very much an open book when he comes to who he chooses.

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After limiting himself to just one change between the opening-day victory against QPR and last week’s defeat to Swansea, Neil shuffled the pack entirely for the League Cup win over Morecame on Tuesday night.

Preston North End's Lukas NmechaPreston North End's Lukas Nmecha
Preston North End's Lukas Nmecha

For tomorrow’s clash with Stoke at Deepdale (5.30pm) he will revert to a side similar to who featured in the first two league games.

But some of the midweek winning side will have planted ideas in Neil’s mind.

“Every time I have picked a team so far , I have had more dilemmas this season already than I had in the whole of last season.

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“I felt that last season, most of our best players were on the pitch for the majority of the time.

“Don’t get me wrong, it did fluctuate a bit from game to game in terms of who we were up against.

“But this season there are three or four positions which I’m looking at thinking ‘do I go with this or do I go with that’?

“It really depends of the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition and how we are going to line-up to take those into account.

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“My job is putting together the right combinations for the weekend.

“All the lads have strengths which contribute to the team in their own way.

“It is a case of highlighting and picking the right players for each game.”

Lukas Nmecha could well get a recall up front against the Potters.

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The 19-year-old, on loan from Manchester City, was handed a start at Swansea just 48 hours after signing.

Nmecha was on the bench against Morecambe, coming on six minutes from time.

His fellow City loanee Brandon Barker could be one of Tuesday night’s team who will force his way into Neil’s starting plans tomorrow.

Barker scored the first goal and was substituted just past the hour mark, perhaps with an eye on Stoke’s visit.

Tomorrow’s game is live on Sky, hence the teatime start.

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Neil said: “It will be a tough match, Stoke have a Premier League squad.

“They have spent in excess of £30m this summer and the expectation will naturally be on going straight back up.

“So far they have found that the Championship is a really difficult league.”