Aston Villa's troubles could be set to continue when they travel to Preston. If Preston can keep things tight at their end, they could have a good chance.
Preston v Aston Villa - Saturday 15:00
Simon Grayson has a conundrum in terms of how he approaches this game: does he stick with the 4-4-2 he usually deploys at home, or go with the more sturdy 3-5-2 that tends to produce better results on the road? The 4-4-2 might work against the likes of Cardiff and Wigan but when they went with that formation at Brentford, they were hammered 5-0.
There’s evidently a gulf in class between these two teams but it’s well within North End’s capabilities to bloody the nose of bigger teams when they get their tactics right on the day. Last season, they kept clean sheets against all of the top six (both home and away against Brighton) while beating Burnley, Hull and Sheffield Wednesday in the process.
So there’s obvious appeal in the 13/5 quotes about Preston to win and Preston to keep a clean sheet, not least because of growing reservations about Aston Villa on account of their mental state. The national press are reporting that Roberto Di Matteo will be sacked if the visitors lose this game, which hardly eases the pressure on players already buckling under tense conditions.
Villa have now dropped 11 points from winning positions following the 1-1 draw at Barnsley in midweek, with Sam Winall’s 89th-minute equaliser the fifth important goal conceded in the last five minutes of matches. Both trends are symptomatic of a wider problem: fear. Given what’s supposedly at stake for Di Matteo, Villa could be crippled by that very emotion at Deepdale.