Preston dealt major injury blow as Alex Neil picks out the three things needed to beat Leeds United

Preston midfielder Daniel Johnson. (Getty)Preston midfielder Daniel Johnson. (Getty)
Preston midfielder Daniel Johnson. (Getty) | Getty
Leeds United host Preston North End on Boxing Day

Preston North End have been dealt a major blow ahead of their trip to Leeds United on Boxing Day with influential midfielder Daniel Johnson sidelined.

The 27-year-old has been missing for several weeks after limping out of the Lilywhites controversial defeat to West Bromwich Albion earlier this month.

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Johnson has bagged eight goals and four assists for Alex Neil’s men this term, but will sit out of the festive clash at Elland Road through injury.

Preston are expected to have club captain Tom Clarke available after a spell on the sidelines while Ben Davies could also return to the matchday line-up having missed North End’s 0-0 draw with Cardiff City last time out.

Defenders Joe Rafferty and Darnell Fisher, though, will miss the fixture as the pair continue to serve suspensions.

Head coach Neil conceded that it was a big blow to lose such a key figure for the trip across the Pennines but did outline where his side need to better Leeds if they are to get a positive result in West Yorkshire.

“DJ is a big blow for us in this one,” Neil admitted.

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“What you need with Leeds is three things – you need tactical awareness, you need legs and the ability to take the ball, handle it under pressure and shift it, because they will go man for man all over the pitch.

“You need to be able to do all three things and DJ is one of the players who gives us all of that, so it is a big, big blow that he is missing for this one for us.

“Both teams play through their No.6, who is relied upon to break up the game and be that extra link and their positions are pivotal to that sort of system and Kalvin Phillips has come on leaps and bounds since Marcelo Bielsa has come in and Ben [Pearson] has got better and better for us over the last few years and it will be really interesting to see how both of them play.”

The Whites themselves have been hit by the news that Pablo Hernandez will be mising for a month after he pulled his hamstring in the first minute at Fulham last weekend.