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Preview: Preston North End vs. Derby County - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Wednesday's Championship game between Preston North End and Derby County, including team news and predicted lineups.

Preston North End and Derby County square off at Deepdale on Wednesday evening with the teams locked on the same points in the Championship table.

Despite their contrasting recent form, the sides begin the week sitting three points adrift of Cardiff City, who occupy the final playoff spot.

Match preview

Derby County's Wayne Rooney pictured after scoring against Reading on June 27, 2020© Reuters

Before the arrival of Wayne Rooney, Derby found themselves in 17th position in the standings, more concerned about the teams looking to avoid relegation than promotion to the Premier League.

However, Rooney has helped inspire a team built of youth and experience, with the Rams now sitting within touching distance of breaking into the top six for the first time this season.

Although they are still only two points above 12th spot, four successive wins make the East Midlands outfit the form team in the division, fully justifying Derby's decision to keep faith with Philip Cocu before the midway point of the campaign.

The latest success, a hard-fought 2-1 triumph over Reading, came courtesy of two goals in two minutes before half time, and Cocu will feel that his team must learn lessons from how they managed a nervy second half against the Royals.

Nevertheless, the fact that they held on for maximum points highlighted that this developing team have more strings to their bow than simply relying on England's top goalscorer in history.

While Derby have been on an upward trajectory before and after lockdown, the opposite has occurred with Preston, who look on the brink of dropping out of the playoff picture.

Despite keeping in close proximity to Cardiff, whom they lost to at the weekend, four defeats from five matches have resulted in Preston occupying their lowest position for some time.

You also have to go back until September for Preston's last clean sheet at Deepdale, a run spanning 18 matches in all competitions.

Both statistics suggest that Alex Neil is up against it to inspire a significant turnaround at this stage of the season, especially beginning with opponents who have been in free-scoring mood away from home.

That said, with this the first of four games left to play against fellow playoff contenders, Neil will hope that such occasions will act as the catalyst for his players bouncing back over the coming weeks.

Preston North End Championship form: WLLLDL

Derby County Championship form: DLWWWW

Team News

Derby manager Phillip Cocu on February 8, 2020© Reuters

Andre Wisdom will be unavailable for selection for the foreseeable future after he was stabbed while visiting a relative in Liverpool at the weekend.

Derby will also be without Tom Lawrence for the trip to the North-West after his red card against Reading.

However, the introduction of Duane Holmes, as well as Curtis Davies, to the starting lineup could prove to be the only alterations made by Cocu.

Neil is expected to make more changes to his Preston side, including recalls being handed to Paul Gallagher and Sean Maguire.

Paul Huntington may also be considered for his first start since January after remaining as an unused substitute at the weekend.

Preston North End possible starting lineup:
Rudd; Fisher, Bauer, Davies, Hughes; Johnson, Pearson, Gallagher; Barkhuizen, Maguire, Sinclair

Derby County possible starting lineup:
Hamer; Bogle, Clarke, Davies, Forsyth; Rooney, Bird; Waghorn, Sibley, Holmes; Martin

Sports Mole Logo

We say: Preston North End 1-2 Derby County

While Preston may rediscover some form during the run-in, we do not expect it to be during their next game. Derby are impressing observers on a week-by-week basis, and that should continue on Wednesday evening.

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Preston boss Alex Neil on December 14, 2019
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Alex Neil demands improvement despite Preston moving third

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Saturday's key events

· After silvers in both the men's and women's events, Team GB will be fancied to get on the podium again in the mixed relay (11.30pm-1am)

· Touted as Michael Phelps's successor, Caeleb Dressel already has two gold medals from these Games and he will be going for a third in the men's 50m butterfly final (2.30am)
· It is Katie Ledecky vs. Ariarne Titmus III in the women's 800m freestyle final, with Ledecky entering as firm favourite (2.46am)
· Great Britain will be heavily fancied to add another gold medal to their swimming haul, having produced by far the fastest qualifying time for the mixed 4x100m medley relay final (3.43am)

· Dina Asher-Smith is one of three British women in the 100m semi-finals (3.01am-3.20am), and will hope to challenge for a medal in what is likely to be a star-studded final (1.50pm)
· The inaugural Olympic 4x400m mixed relay event concludes with Great Britain one of the eight finalists going for gold (1.35pm)

· Team GB's dreams of an unlikely gold are still alive in the women's event as they face France in their semi-final (3.30am). The winners will face either New Zealand or Fiji in the gold medal match later in the day (10am)

· Gold medals are up for grabs in the windsurfer - RS:X finals. Emma Wilson participates for Team GB in the women's final (6.33am), while Tom Squires is in action in the men's (7.33am)

· Following his shock semi-final defeat, ending his hopes of a Golden Slam in 2021, Novak Djokovic battles for bronze against Pablo Carreno Busta (7am)
· The women's singles event reaches its conclusion with the gold medal match between Belinda Bencic and Marketa Vondrousova

> Today's schedule in full
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