Two teams in very contrasting form meet at the New York Stadium this weekend as Rotherham United face Preston North End in Championship action.
- Rotherham United sit one place and one point above the relegation zone
- Preston enter the weekend top of the Championship
- Four of the last five meetings between these two have ended 2-1
This weekend's hosts Rotherham are the perennial yo-yo club, switching between League One and the Championship every year since 2016, until last season when they finally managed to stay up. Their opponents Preston, on the other hand, have established themselves as a reliable mid table second-tier side during the same 7-8 year period.
Rotherham United Form
Much to the dismay of Millers fans, Rotherham appear to be set for another trying campaign this season, having picked up just four points from their opening seven games. Going into this weekend's fixtures, they sit just one point and one place above the relegation zone, and a slight gap is already beginning to emerge above them.
Manager Matt Taylor did an outstanding job at Exeter City before joining The Millers last season, and then managed to secure them a 19th place finish and continued Championship status, something no other manager had been able to achieve in years prior. However, he will be desperate to get a home win here and start to build some momentum. Back-to-back losses to nil against Millwall and Huddersfield will have dampened morale but Taylor and his players will be hoping to bounce back this weekend.
Preston North End Form
Preston are not the ideal opposition for a side struggling for confidence to face right now. Undefeated in their opening seven games, with six wins and one draw, Ryan Lowe's side are tearing the Championship apart.
Despite not being tipped for promotion glory at the start of the season, it seems that the solid platform of consistent mid table finishes which the club has built in the past decade could now be finally manifesting itself as the perfect springboard to take the club back to the English top flight for the first time since the 1960s and the days of Tom Finney.
PNE go into this weekend's set of fixtures top of the Championship, absolutely flying and exuded confidence. Their travelling fans will expect another positive result against a struggling and outmatched Rotherham side.
Recent head-to-head form actually favours the hosts, with Rotherham winning three of the last five encounters between the two, with Preston winning one and the other ending in a draw.
One other interesting quirk this data throws up is that four of those five games ended with a 2-1 scoreline.
Matt Taylor is faced with quite a few injury worries considered we are at such an early stage of the season, with several key defenders missing for the hosts.
Portuguese defender Cafu, who arrived from Premier League side Nottingham Forest in the summer, is expected to be out until late October with a muscle injury. Another summer signing in centre back Sean Morrison, who arrived from Cardiff City, will likely be out for a few more weeks with a calf problem, as will fellow defender Lee Peltier.
Struggling with a depleted backline is not the perfect preparation for a game against table topping Preston.
On a positive note for the hosts, the visitors remain without their two top scorers of their last two campaigns, Ched Evans and Emil Riis Jakobsen. Both men are unlikely to return until some time next month as they recover from ACL (Jakobsen) and spinal cord (Evans) injuries.
Defender Calvin Ramsay is also not expected back until October, but Ryan Lowe may be able to reintroduce key midfielder Will Keane back into the fold for this one.
As no team has conceded more goals in the Championship than Rotherham, which is understandable due to the myriad of defensive absences Matt Taylor is dealing with, the focus will surely be on trying to score some goals to counteract this.
The manager will rely on the likes of midfielder Hakeem Odofin, who has contributed four goals so far in all competitions, and Fred Onyedinma, the winger on loan from Luton Town, who looks to be their most exciting creative outlet on paper.
In the absence of the aforementioned Will Keane, Preston's current top scorer this season, fellow attacking midfielder Liam Millar will be expected to take on the responsibility of creating chances and hopefully scoring goals. Meanwhile, Montenegro international striker Milutin Osmajić, a summer signing from Cadiz, netted his first goal for the club in the 2-1 win over Birmingham in midweek, and should be the main focal point for the visitors up top.
All good runs must come to an end, and usually when you least expect. The Championship is an unpredictable beast and it wouldn't be at all surprising to see Rotherham put an end to Preston's early season party this weekend. That being said, when you look at the data, it's difficult to see anything but a routine away win for PNE here, given the defensive injury list at the New York Stadium and the excellent form of the visitors.