THE Clarets will step-up their pre-season campaign tonight as they face Preston in the second of three successive Lancashire derbies.
After a gruelling week of fitness work in Austria Sean Dyche’s squad are now looking to get their match sharpness up with some tougher tests than the one offered by FC Grossklein during the warm weather camp.
On Saturday a Clarets outfit featuring several youngsters travelled down the M65 to face Accrington at the Store First Stadium, coming away with a 1-0 victory in sweltering temperatures.
And tonight they head to Deepdale to face a Preston side that narrowly missed out on promotion from League One last season, losing in the play-off semi-finals.
It will be the toughest test of pre-season so far for Burnley, who complete the Lancashire derby hat-trick with a trip to Bloomfield Road to face Blackpool on Saturday.
Several first-team players who missed out on Saturday could return at Deepdale.
The absence of Tom Heaton, Steven Reid, Michael Kightly and Ashley Barnes was purely precautionary according to Dyche, and the four have been in training.
But the boss could give further chances to some of the younger members of the squad.
“I know about our group, but there is a learning curve for the younger players,” he said.
“We are looking to build a squad, of course, and we are actively in the market for a couple of fresh faces, but this is an invaluable experience for them.
“There is still a big gap, but they have to fill that void and understand the demands they have to place on themselves to get up to first team level.
“The bar has been raised and you are no longer looking to jump into a team that is looking to do well in the Championship; you are looking at a team trying to do well in the Premier League.”
Heaton, who started every league game last season, has yet to feature in pre-season, but if he is given the chance he will be keen to impress after Matt Gilks kept a clean sheet on Saturday, making a fine save from Josh Windass early in the game.
Gilks has already spoken of his desire to keep his place in the Scotland squad and battle Heaton for the number one jersey, and it is now up to the former Cardiff stopper to rise to the challenge.
Further up the pitch the battle to partner Danny Ings up front will continue. With Sam Vokes continuing his recuperation from a cruciate knee ligament injury, Barnes, Lukas Jutkiewicz and Marvin Sordell are all in contention to start alongside last season’s top scorer when the Premier League season kicks-off on August 18.
All three of them bagged a brace in the 8-0 win in Austria, but it was young striker Jason Gilchrist who struck the winning goal on Saturday.
Ex-Bolton striker Sordell started in attack alongside Ings, with Jutkiewicz coming off the bench, and he could be in line for a start at Deepdale, with Barnes also back in contention.