Unlikely early frontrunners Preston North End welcome Plymouth Argyle to Deepdale on Saturday as the Championship season rolls on.
- Preston North End begin weekend top of the Championship
- Both teams boast one of the league's top scorers so far
- These two sides have not faced each other since 2010
Both managers will be very happy with the starts their respective teams have had in the opening five games of the campaign which should allow for two groups of players, high in confidence, to put in good performances this weekend.
Preston North End Form
After five almost identical mid table seasons, in terms of points total and league placement, PNE have started the 2023/24 campaign in stunning fashion. Four wins and one draw from the opening five games of the season have seen them charge to the top of the table heading into this weekend's action.
Depending on how results go in Friday's two Championship games, they may or may not be top of the league when this game kicks off.
Much of that success has been built on a solid defence, conceding just three goals so far, and an in-form striker who is currently joint-top scorer in the division (more on that later).
Plymouth Argyle Form
Newly promoted Argyle, who have returned to Championship competition for the first time in over a decade, are also overperforming expectations. 7 points from their opening 5 games have delivered them a comfortable mid table position at this early stage of their first season back in the English second tier.
They also boast one of the league's five joint-top scorers among their ranks, with his goals proving crucial in helping deliver them two wins and a draw from their first five outings.
This game will be the first meeting between these two sides in 13 years, which is very surprising given that both clubs have spent time in League One during the last decade or so. They have miraculously missed each other in terms of leagues and also both cups.
Therefore, it's hard to glean too much from their previous games against each other. Nonetheless, the last five meetings have delivered three draws and one win for either side.
Preston's early season form is even more impressive when looking at their injury list. Ryan Lowe's side will be without Calvin Ramsey and Ben Whiteman until some point in October at least, while strikers Ched Evans and Emil Riis Jakobsen, the club's top scorers of the last two seasons, are unlikely to return to the fold until late September.
Steven Schumacher, on the other hand, has no injuries or suspensions to contend with when selecting his Plymouth lineup for the weekend.
To add insult to injury for Preston, no pun intended, they may well be without their aforementioned joint-top scorer in the league this season, Will Keane. The Ireland forward has contributed four goals in five games as the club's only available recognised striker, in the absence of Evans and Jakobsen, but a muscle injury picked up during the international break could rule him out here, leaving Preston catastrophically light up top.
Schumacher has no such worries when it comes to his side's danger man. Ryan Hardie has scored four goals in five games for Plymouth so far this season and should prove key to their chances of picking up points on the road this weekend.
Preston's position at the top of the table is somewhat misleading. It could be argued that, Sunderland aside, they have largely played mid table fodder thus far and are yet to come up against a real tough challenge. Couple that with the likelihood that they will now lose a third striker to injury this season and it starts to look a lot bleaker for the hosts than the table would suggest.
Plymouth have started the season well, Schumacher has done a wonderful job there, and they have an exciting threat up top in Ryan Hardie. It would not be a huge surprise to see The Pilgrims take at least a point away from Deepdale this weekend, despite it perhaps appearing so on paper.