“Encouragingly, Preston are starting to turn in the sort of performances that saw them finish in the top half of the table last season and that’s credit to Simon Grayson and his level-headedness under pressure.
“The traumas of the opening few weeks have been overcome, for now, but PNE face all three teams who were relegated from the Premier League during October, so life doesn’t get any easier.
“Tuesday’s impressive draw at Birmingham City means fans can at least sit back and enjoy the challenge of beating Villa, a home fixture that’s been some 42 years in waiting.
“Grayson played for Villa and was strongly linked with their managerial vacancy over the summer. He’ll know that victory at Deepdale would cap a fine recovery for the club going into the international break.”
BBC WM’s Mark Regan:
“Football is weird. It can leave you scratching your head trying to figure out what’s going on. So it is at Villa Park at the moment. The puzzle? Late goals.
“It’s something that has plagued Villa from their first game at Sheffield Wednesday to their 10th at Barnsley on Tuesday night. On five separate occasions, Roberto Di Matteo’s side have slipped up in the last five minutes.
“There’s still a feeling among Villa fans that it will click sooner or later, but there’s also a growing sense of fear that there is something missing, be it a killer instinct or a mental toughness at key stages of games.
“Owner Tony Xia has been supportive amid press reports that Di Matteo had two games to save his job (prior to Barnsley) and, at his pre-match press conference, Roberto Di Matteo declared ‘I believe this team will be in the top six at the end of the season’, so he’s in no doubt, even if others are.”
Preston North End and fellow Football League founder members Aston Villa meet for the first time since January 1974.
Villa were the first team to ever take a point away from Deepdale, in November 1888.
Preston have won their last two league games at Deepdale, having failed to win any of the previous nine.
Villa have had five successive league draws. The only time in their history when they won drawn six on the trot, in their European Cup winning season of 1981-82.
Daniel Johnson’s goal against Birmingham ended a run of nine games without scoring for the Preston midfielder.
Including last season in the Premier League, Villa have won just one of their last 23 league games.