Preston and Cardiff are chasing the Championship play-offs and on Saturday the two teams go head-to-head at Deepdale. Mark O'Haire previews the encounter...
"The Lilywhites have rewarded Both Teams To Score backers in 13/19 (68%) home matches this term, including five of seven against top-10 guests."
Preston v Cardiff
Saturday June 27, 12:30
Preston rue late equaliser
Preston boss Alex Neil wasn't satisfied with a share of the spoils as the Lilywhites were held to a 1-1 draw at rock-bottom Luton last weekend. North End conceded just three minutes from time as the Hatters scored with their first effort on-target with Neil saying: "We lacked a bit of concentration for that big moment and it has cost us."
Up until the late leveller Preston had been the better team, deservedly going ahead when good work from Tom Barkhuizen led to Scott Sinclair side-footing the guests ahead. Sean Maguire twice went close, Paul Gallagher's free-kick and Ben Pearson's fierce drive came close to extending the advantage but PNE were unable to grab a vital second goal.
Neil was frustrated his side were unable to see out a win that would have given Preston a two-point buffer over the play-off chasing pack. The Lilywhites remain sixth coming into pivotal back-to-back home games against fellow top-six chasers Cardiff and Derby. The hosts aren't expected to make any major changes to their preferred starting 11 here on Saturday.
Cardiff upset the odds against Leeds
Cardiff are only outside the play-off places on goal difference after the Bluebirds returned from the enforced break by upsetting the odds with a 2-0 triumph over title favourites Leeds.Junior Hoilett's capitalised on a loose pass to give them a first-half lead before substitute Robert Glatzel smashed home a decisive second on 71 minutes.
The contest was played at a frenetic pace with Leeds predictably dominating possession and territory without creating a catalogue of clear-cut chances against a well-organised Cardiff rearguard. Home keeper Alex Smithies was called on to make a selection of excellent saves for Neil Harris' side who produced an efficient and effective display in the Welsh capital.
Harris said: "During lockdown we asked a lot of the players physically. The lads have been great and they got their reward and we are really delighted to play in the manner we did. The players are hungry to do more. The play-offs has to be our goal." The hosts could recall Lee Tomlin and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing on Saturday following the duos return to fitness.
Well-matched pair hard to separate
Preston have enjoyed encounters with Cardiff over recent seasons, returning a W4-D1-L1 head-to-head record at Deepdale that includes five clean sheets. In fact, the Lilywhites have silenced the Bluebirds in each of their past three meetings (W2-D1-L0), including the reverse fixture in Wales that ended in a dour goalless draw.
Only Fulham (12) have won more Championship home fixtures than Preston's [2.46] tally of 11 this term. Alex Neil's charges have earned 63% of their points tally as hosts, including W3-D3-L1 when welcoming fellow top-10 clubs. North End are ranked inside the top-six for Expected Goals (xG) ratio, although the Lilywhites are without a clean sheet here in 15.
Cardiff [3.25] are looking to secure three consecutive Championship wins for the first time since December. The Bluebirds have been beaten only four times in 22 league fixtures under Neil Harris (W9-D9-L4), however, three of those losses arrived on the road (W5-D3-L3). The visitors have pocketed a solitary success in 10 when travelling to the top-14 (W1-D4-L5).
Preston have only fired four blanks at Deepdale in 2019/20, whilst surprisingly keeping just two shutouts in those 19 outings. The Lilywhites have rewarded Both Teams To Score (1.87) backers in 13/19 (68%) home matches this term, including five of seven against top-10 guests.
Cardiff have found the back of the net in 18 of their 22 tussles during Neil Harris' reign, and although the Bluebirds have kept eight clean sheets in that same sample, the visitors have leaked at least twice in 10 of their overall 19 road trips. Eleven (59%) of those away days paid out in the BTTS column, including six of nine visits to teams inside the top-14.
Mark's 2019/20 Profit/Loss
Staked: 140.00 pts
Returned: 157.57 pts
P/L: +17.57 pts