Norwich visit marks start of tough stretch for Preston

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The post-Alex Neil era gets underway at Deepdale tomorrow as Frankie McAvoy takes charge for the first time as struggling Preston welcome table-toppers Norwich.

Neil saw his time in charge come to an end before the international break after a 1-0 defeat to Luton. The club acted on the back of the defeat and installed McAvoy to lead the team for the remainder of the campaign.

Preston had been ambling along in mid-table for most of the season but a run of four defeats in five games has seen the Lilywhites slide down the table and Neil admitted before his departure that he was now looking over his shoulder towards the bottom.

The board obviously felt similar, opting for a change and will now need survival to vindicate their decision. The Lancashire side sit nine points above the drop zone, although Rotherham have four games in hand. With the next three matches coming against sides in the top four, things may get worse before they get better.

Alan Browne will serve the second of a three match ban but other than that North End have no new absentees. Long term injury victims Patrick Bauer, Declan Rudd and Louis Moult are continuing to make progress on the road to recovery.

Daniel Farke’s Norwich side are closing in on a second promotion in three years and currently hold a 14 point lead over Swansea in third. Another 14 points would guarantee a return to the Premier League at the first time of asking.

The Canaries have won nine of their last ten games and few would argue against them securing the Championship title.

That’s not to say Farke doesn’t have issues to deal with ahead of the clash with Preston as Ben Gibson and Christophe Zimmermann have been ruled out through injury. Zimmermann will miss six weeks while Gibson is out for the season.

This leaves a hole in the heart of the defence and Alex Tettey could divert from a midfield role to plug the gaps.

The international break affected Norwich a lot more than Preston and the less than 48 hour gap between this fixture and the final internationals means Farke will be sweating on the availability of a host of key men.

This should give McAvoy some encouragement. There’s rarely a good time to play the league leaders but Friday might just be that time.

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