The Preston fixture is one that hasn’t thrown up too many happy memories for Rovers in recent times.

It is no win in six, and the one anomaly in that run was a 2-2 draw at Ewood Park in March 2017 when Aiden McGeady’s injury-time goal put a big dent in Rovers’ survival hopes.

Since then, and Alex Neil took over the reins at Deepdale, North End have won each of the last three matches, scoring eight goals in the process, including coming back from 2-0 down in the reverse fixture in October.

Unfortunately for Rovers, they seem to face North End at the worst possible time.

They host the Lilywhites this time around having lost each of their last three matches, taking just two points from the last 12 available over the festive period.

The injury situation is also far from ideal, with Greg Cunningham and Bradley Dack out for the season, Elliott Bennett for the foreseeable future, with doubts over Ryan Nyambe, Lewis Holtby and Corry Evans.

Rovers will hope the latter trio will be able to boost numbers for Saturday’s game as they return to Ewood Park where the visitors will be packed by a travelling support well in excess of 5,000.

When the sides last met at Ewood, in March, Preston left 1-0 winners. That inflicted a sixth defeat in seven on Rovers who had taken just one point from 18 heading in to the game.

In November 2018, at Deepdale, Rovers had taken five points from four games before putting in their worst performance of the season to slump to a 4-1 victory.

In March 2017, they made it seven games unbeaten under Tony Mowbray, but a third successive draw left them deep in relegation trouble. And an injury-time Preston equaliser was arguably the moment during the run-in, with tough games to follow, that many feared the worst.

However, there are good omens for Rovers, and there would be no better time to come up with a response to their dip in form of late.

To do that, they will need to keep a close eye on Preston attacker Tom Barkhuizen who has four goals in the last four meetings between the sides.

Despite the back-to-back disappointment of frustrating draws with Wigan and Birmingham at their headquarters, Rovers have now not tasted defeat in front of their own fans since September.

Only three sides in the division have lost fewer home matches.

Preston have also won just twice on their travels and are going through an equally sticky patch of form with three consecutive defeats and picking up no win in their last five matches.

An incentive for Rovers is victory over their neighbours would move them to 39 points, and level with North End, whose goal difference is currently four better.

That would be some turnaround, with Rovers having trailed Preston by 10 points on matchday 14 when Rovers left Deepdale devastated by throwing away a two-goal lead.

So who plays?

Despite seeing several chances go begging at Birmingham in the cup last weekend, Sam Gallagher is likely to lead the line for Rovers after scoring once, having celebrated twice, in the meeting at Deepdale.

With four goals in eight games, and the man most likely to take on Rovers’ goalscoring mantle, Adam Armstrong could well partner him in attack, should Mowbray wish to go 4-4-2.

Stewart Downing and Lewis Travis are likely to start in midfield, as will Evans if he can shake off a knee problem to feature.

A return for Nyambe would be particularly timely, with Bennett set to miss out, with Derrick Williams a contender for Amari’i Bell’s left back spot after recovering from his own injury trouble.

Whoever does get the nod, Rovers will want to be more ruthless in front of goal, with five goals from their last five matches, two of which have been penalties and another an own goal, despite creating a host of chances.

Bragging rights are at stake once again.