LANCASHIRE rivals Preston North End and Wigan Athletic will meet in a league match for the first time in over a decade on Friday night.
The Lilywhites and the Latics kick start the Football League weekend in front of the Sky cameras at Deepdale, looking to move up the SkyBet Championship table (KO 19:45 BST).
Separated by just three places and a solitary point in the bottom six after eight games, their first league clash since May 2005 is a crucial one even at this early stage of the season.
Preston will be hoping to build on their dramatic comeback win over Premier League side Bournemouth in the EFL Cup in midweek.
Former Charlton striker Simon Makienok struck his first goals for the club with a sensational hat-trick, on only his second Lilywhites start, to book a fourth-round tie against Newcastle.
It was the perfect reaction to suffering the heaviest defeat of Simon Grayson’s tenure – and worst league loss since 2004 – in last Saturday’s 5-0 drubbing at Brentford.
Danish frontman Makienok will be looking to continue in the same vein as Preston seek their first league win over the Latics since April 2000.
The Lilywhites have found results hard to come by on home soil with just one win in their last 10 league outings, but that victory came in emphatic fashion against Cardiff City in their previous game at Deepdale.
Three of their seven league goals this season also came against the Bluebirds but – despite being tight at the back last term on their way to an 11th-placed finish in their first season back in the second-tier – leaking goals has also been a problem, with 12 conceded so far.
Meanwhile, Wigan ended a wretched run of four straight defeats with a tepid goalless draw against Fulham last weekend at the DW Stadium – keeping only their second clean sheet of the season.
Gary Caldwell’s team, who won the League One title last term, will be desperate to climb out of the bottom three with a positive result before their relegation rivals take to the field on Saturday.
The Latics – a Premier League club as recently as 2013 – could also benefit from having no midweek match, so they should be fresh when they make the short 18-mile trip up the M6 along with 3,000 of their supporters.
But the newly-promoted side have won only once in the Championship this term and have lost all four of their away league games so far.
Northern Irish striker Will Grigg isn’t exactly on fire at the moment, given his side’s predicament, but has had a hand in Wigan’s last four league goals – scoring three of them.
The main focus for both sides will be taking three points and holding the bragging rights in this particular Lancashire rivalry until the sides lock horns again at the DW in February.
Preston’s Lancashire derby record last season:
31 Oct 2015 – Preston 0-0 Bolton (Deepdale)
21 Nov 2015 – Preston 1-2 Blackburn (Deepdale)
5 Dec 2015 – Burnley 0-2 Preston (Turf Moor)
12 Mar 2016 – Bolton 1-2 Preston (The Macron Stadium)
2 Apr 2016 – Blackburn 1-2 Preston (Ewood Park)
22 Apr 2016 – Preston 0-1 Burnley (Deepdale)
Played 6, Won 3, Drawn 1, Lost 2
Wigan will be without midfielder Alex Gilbey, who will be sidelined for a while after being stretchered off with a knee injury against Fulham.
Deadline day signing Nathan Byrne – who replaced him off the bench last weekend – is likely to take his place.
Nick Powell returned from a groin problem as a substitute against the Cottagers and could be in contention for a start.
But defender Reece Burke had an operation on a hernia this week and will be out for up to a month.
Alex Baptiste, Aiden McGeady, Anders Lindegaard and Paul Gallagher should return to the Preston squad, having been left at home in midweek.
On-loan Everton winger McGeady could be reunited with Wigan boss Caldwell, who he played with for four years at Celtic before they both left Parkhead in 2010.
Former Manchester United defender Marnick Vermijl will again miss out with a hamstring strain suffered at Griffin Park but striker Jermaine Beckford could be involved after four games out with a hamstring injury.
WHAT THE MANAGERS SAY:
Preston North End boss Simon Grayson told the club’s official website:
“These local derbies are special games, we had some good games last year with Blackburn, Burnley and Bolton and it will be no different with Wigan.
“They have had some good times being in the Premier League, winning the FA Cup, and they suffered the disappointment of going into League One but now they are back into the Championship and they’re looking to progress and stabilise as a football club.
“We know what to expect, they’ve recruited over the summer and on deadline day and they have got some threats but we will be concentrating on what we need to do to affect the game as well.
“We are at home, we are going to take the game to them and we’ve got to make sure that we play with the same tempo as we did in the Cardiff game and probably for the first 74 minutes that we did against Brentford.”
Wigan Athletic manager Gary Caldwell told the club’s official website:
“You can’t get too emotional; we are obviously up for it because we know the importance of it to the fans because the result and the night is for them to enjoy so we will do everything we can to give them a win and make sure they enjoy their night.
“I don’t know what Preston’s team will be because of their result the other night at Bournemouth in the Cup and the travelling they have had to do, so that will be interesting.
“We know them, though, we know the strengths they will bring and we will be ready.”
Referee: Oliver Langford (West Midlands)
Assistant referees: James Wilson (Cheshire) and Christopher Akers (south Yorkshire)
Fourth official: Stephen Martin (Staffordshire)
West Midlands whistler Langford, 36, will take charge of his fourth Championship game of the season after being confirmed on the 18-strong list of Select Group 2 referees in the summer.
Despite impressing with his quiet but assured approach, he has often found himself officiating in League One and League Two in previous seasons.
You can read more on Langford’s appointment here.