Preston vs Birmingham predictions: North End can stay top with narrow success
Surprise early-season pacesetters Preston North End are looking to make it six straight Championship wins when they entertain Birmingham City at Deepdale.
Birmingham were themselves unbeaten until heading into stoppage time at Watford on Saturday, shipping two late goals in a 2-0 loss.
But Blues' boss John Eustace has a number of selection headaches which help to give North End a potential edge.
Left-back Liam Miller and striker Milutin Osmajic came in for their Preston debuts against Plymouth and were excellent in the 2-1 win.
Osmajic played because top scorer Will Keane was out but boss Ryan Lowe is giving the latter time to prove his fitness. Pushing for starts are Robbie Brady and Ben Whiteman, who returned to the bench against Argyle after lengthy lay-offs.
Birmingham, already minus suspended frontman Lukas Jutkiewicz, now have left-back Lee Buchanan suspended as well.
With no like-for-like replacement, Eustace could revert to a 3-4-3 set-up with Emmanuel Aiwu drafted into the defence alongside Kevin Long and Dion Sanderson. Siri Dembele, Tyler Roberts and Ethan Laird are all likely to miss out again.
Preston are the only unbeaten side in the Championship and have won each of their last five matches.
North End's last three home games have been won by 2-1 scorelines and they have scored in each of their first six games this season, a stark contrast to 12 months ago when they had failed to score in five of their first six.
Birmingham have conceded only one goal in six league matches this season before the 60-minute mark.
None of the last 11 Championship meetings between these sides has produced more than three goals, with the average goals per match coming out at 1.7.
Preston's efficiency is setting them apart from the rest in the Championship and it is worth backing it to continue against the Blues.
North End are averaging just over nine shots per game – only three teams are averaging less – but you only need to look at the league table to realise their conversion rate is superb and they will be massively confident after beating Plymouth 2-1 at the weekend.
And they are bound to fancy their chances against a Birmingham side who have lost another player courtesy of Lee Buchanan's late red card in Saturday's 2-0 loss at Watford.
This does not look like a match which is going to feature too many goals – the history between them brings up low-scoring affairs.
But if there is a winner, giving Eustace needs to tweak personnel and shape after a really tough workout at Vicarage Road, it may well be Preston.
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