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Preview: Preston North End v Blues

It’s been three games where we haven’t won, that’s been really frustrating for ourselves but there’s only one way out, it’s really simple – we stick together, we fight hard and we come through it.

Garry Monk

Our full match preview ahead of Saturday's Sky Bet Championship fixture against The Lilywhites at Deepdale (3pm kick-off).

Garry Monk on a difficult week for his squad…

“It has been a tough week, frustration and disappointment in the results and that’s never what you want. The simple fact of it is, speaking to the players, is understanding that we have got one game left before the international break and we want to make sure we come off that pitch with something positive before the final run-in. Unfortunately it’s inevitable in this league, every single team has gone through a patch where it’s not winning games. It’s been three games where we haven’t won, that’s been really frustrating for ourselves but there’s only one way out, it’s really simple – we stick together, we fight hard and we come through it. This is our longest patch, we want to make sure we put a stop to that as soon as possible and come through into the international break for that final push for the rest of the season.”

Garry Monk on getting back on track against a Preston side that are unbeaten in 11 Championship games…

“We are in a three-game period right now where we have not got the results we want. We want to address that as soon as possible. We get an opportunity to do that in this next game, yes it’s against an opponent who are in really good form. I think the first time we played them they were nine games unbeaten and we managed to get the three points. Now it’s 11 games, it’s an opportunity to try and see if we can do the same. We know it’s going to be difficult but we have been fighting all season, we have got a huge amount of character in that changing room. Now is the time for that to come shining through.”

Garry Monk on whether he’d be happy with taking a point away from Deepdale…

“Three points is our ultimate aim, a point would be another point on the board. But, of course, we got into each and every game trying to win. There is no other mentality to have than to try and win the game. We need put in the performance, that’s the thing that led us to getting the points that we have done so far this season. I think points is the most important bit for us this season. I said at the start that we need to get as many points as possible, as quickly as possible, and accumulate them at a good pace. I think we’ve done that more often than not up to this point – people can judge on whatever they want, but three games is inevitable unfortunately in this league. Every team in this league has gone through that. We want to stop that straightaway and get three points.”

Garry Monk on defending better, with his side having kept just one clean sheet in 13 outings…

“I love clean sheets, I love to score goals too, but you have to get the balance of both right, in these last three games especially. I think some of them have been a bit unfortunate. The Villa game for instance, it was very marginal. There wasn’t a lot of chances for them, I think there were only three chances that they had and they managed to score with one of them. And with the four chances we had, we didn’t manage to take one. The game on Wednesday, the goals we conceded we cannot be happy with, and there’s no getting away from that. We need to get our defending right. I think they’ve shown already what we’re capable of when we get it right, our defending. And we know as a team, when we get that part of it right, we’re always a team that are going to create chances in a game. We normally create good chances, whether it’s one chance, two chances or 10 chances, they’re normally good chances for us when we do create them. We have to get both sides of the game right and get back to that – more resilience, that mentality to be very difficult to beat and the intensity that we play at. We need to get that right, which then allows us to go on and be effective when we’re attacking. A clean sheet would be welcome but we’re facing a team that’s in really good form and it will be difficult. It’s like in any Championship game, it’s difficult to not concede goals, but we need to try and make sure that we do that in this game at the weekend.”

Preston Manager Alex Neil on the test that awaits his side on Saturday…

“Birmingham have had a good season, they are hard to play against. The game down there (at St. Andrew’s Trillion Trophy Stadium) we found really difficult and we had quite a few bodies missing at that stage, but this is going to be a tough match. I went down to watch them at Bristol City; they won the game and deservedly so – they were excellent. The front two were a real handful. They put the ball forward, quite direct in their style, but they have some really good players across the pitch and it is going to be a tough match. We have been in a really rich vein of form, in terms of results, and we will be looking to continue that. We know what is to come from them and it is just a case of how well can we play on the day? And I am sure they are saying exactly the same thing. I don’t think there are going to be any surprises for either team on Saturday in terms of shape, style or how the game is going to be played. It is just a case of who can play the best and take their opportunities.”

Alex Neil on pitting his wits against his former Oakwell team-mate Garry Monk…   

“I played with Gaz at Barnsley. He is a good lad and we have had some really interesting games (as managers). When he was at Swansea, I played against him there, the same with Leeds and Middlesbrough and now with Birmingham He will be happy with what they have done this year. He has gone in and steadied the ship and made them a really good fighting force this season, so it will be a tough game for us.”

Blues team news...

Blues have no fresh injury concerns going into the game at Deepdale. Maxime Colin misses out for the third successive match due to a hamstring problem, but Garry Monk confirmed that the Frenchman should be fit to return to action after the international break. Marc Roberts and Charlie Adams are getting back to fitness and will play for the Under-23s in their game against Millwall at St. Andrew’s Trillion Trophy Stadium this Saturday. That leaves Monk with the other 19 members of his First Team squad from which to choose his matchday 18.

Preston team news...

Preston have right-back Darnell Fisher available again after suspension, but will check on the fitness of midfielder Alan Browne who was withdrawn midway through the first-half of their midweek win at Middlesbrough due to injury. The Lilywhites will definitely be without long-term absentees Billy Bodin, Josh Harrop (both ACL) and Connor Ripley (ankle).

Last five meetings between Preston and Blues...

Championship 01 Dec 2018 Blues 3 Preston 0
Championship 20 Jan 2018 Preston 1 Blues 1
Championship 16 Sep 2017 Blues 1 Preston 3
Championship 14 Feb 2017 Preston 2 Blues 1
Championship 27 Sep 2016 Blues 2 Preston 2

Form guide. Last five Championship fixtures....

Preston: DWDWW
Blues: DWLLL

Total meetings...

Preston wins: 36
Blues wins: 35
Draws: 23

Ticket news...

Blues have sold out of our full allocation of 5,623 tickets for this game.

BluesTV…

BluesTV will be broadcasting live from Deepdale. UK & EIRE customers will be able to listen to listen to this game as part of their subscription. International subscribers can watch the game. Click here to subscribe to BluesTV.

Important supporter message...

The Club urges all supporters to refrain from anti-social behaviour and conduct themselves in the correct manner at all our games, inside and outside the ground. The overwhelming majority of our support is well behaved, law-abiding and the passionate backing the team receives is greatly appreciated. However, as a Club we have a zero-tolerance policy regarding anti-social behaviour and spectator misconduct. This includes - amongst other things - drunkenness, throwing of coins and use and carrying of pyrotechnics (flares, smoke bombs), racist and/or homophobic chanting. In particular, the throwing of coins and other missiles is extremely dangerous and is not tolerated whatsoever. This is a very serious offence and any supporter identified to have committed this and other such acts will be banned by the Club and subject to the possibility of criminal prosecution. Supporters must stay off the pitch - pitch encroachment is against the law. Birmingham City Football Club will continue to work closely with the police, football authorities and ground authorities to stamp out all types spectator misconduct. In the light of events in our last home match - the Club have been charged by the Football Association - it is imperative that all supporters to assist us and help eradicate unlawful practices. The Football Association have the power to impose a serious financial penalty on the Club and order matches to be played behind closed doors.
Thank you.

Match officials…

Scott Duncan will take charge of Saturday's game. So far this season, the Northumberland-based official has refereed 26 games where he has produced a total of 84 yellow cards and seven reds. The last Blues game he refereed was our Championship away fixture at Millwall in November 2018. Blues won that game 2-0 and there were four players cautioned; including Craig and Gary Gardner for the visitors, with Millwall's Ryan Leonard also sent off in that game after receiving two yellow cards. The last Preston game he took charge of was their Championship home fixture against Hull City on 26 December 2018. Preston were beaten 2-1 by Tigers and there was just a solitary caution given to a Hull player. Mr Brooks will be assisted on Saturday by Robert Merchant and Samuel Lewis with Christopher Sarginson acting as the fourth official.

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