Last season saw Norwich City, Sheffield United, Aston Villa, Luton Town, Barnsley, Charlton, Lincoln City, Bury, MK Dons and Tranmere Rovers experience the joy of promotion in the Football League while Salford City and Leyton Orient gaining promotion to the league.
However, Ipswich Town, Bolton, Rotherham, Plymouth Argyle, Walsall, Scunthorpe, Bradford City, Notts County and Yeovil Town all suffered the misery of relegation within the Football League, with the latter two being relegated into the Vanarama National Conference for double the agony.
However, this weekend is a big one as it is when the Football League gets underway once again with the first games of the season for all 72 teams played mostly on Saturday, but with one game on Friday and one each on Sunday and Monday.
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In this article we are going to take a look at the fixtures in each division for the first weekend of the season before giving you a brief rundown of how we see the season going in each division, who are the teams to watch at both ends of the table.
Let’s begin with the action taking place in the Championship. All odds shown were correct with bet365 at the time of writing but may have altered since. All kick off times are 3pm on Saturday 3rd August unless otherwise stated.
It’s a return to the Championship for Fulham, Huddersfield Town and Cardiff City after relegation from the Premier League, while Luton, Barnsley and Charlton will be back in the division above in what should be an exciting season in the Championship. As always, the teams with the extra finance afforded by a recent season or two (or more) in the Premier League will likely come to the fore, while those without that weighty financial benefit will try to match them on the field.
I expect the likes of Stoke City, Leeds United, Cardiff City, Fulham, Middlesbrough, Nottingham Forest and Hull City to be in amongst things for the promotion and playoff spots, but I feel it could be a tougher campaign for the likes of Millwall, Barnsley, Luton, Preston, Blackburn and Wigan.
Competition for promotion in this division always goes down to the wire and this year will likely be no different and with some interesting teams in the mix, it should prove to be an even contest and I’d envisage most teams to be batting at either end of the table deep into the season
Championship Opening Day Fixtures
- Luton Town v Middlesbrough (Fri, 7.45pm)
- Barnsley v Fulham
- Blackburn Rovers v Charlton Athletic
- Brentford v Birmingham City
- Millwall v Preston North End
- Reading v Sheffield Wednesday
- Stoke City v Queens Park Rangers
- Swansea City v Hull City
- Wigan Athletic v Cardiff City
- Nottingham Forest v West Brom (5.30pm)
- Bristol City v Leeds United (Sun, 4.30pm)
- Huddersfield Town. V Derby County (Mon, 7.45pm)
Championship Outright Winners. Tip – Fulham
League One Preview
With Lincoln, Bury, MK Dons and Tranmere joining League One while Rotherham, Ipswich Town and Bolton dropped into it from the Championship, there’s a real eclectic mix of teams in the division this year. Ipswich have already made a smart move snapping up Tranmere’s 30+ goalscoring striker James Norwood on a small fee from the Birkenhead club and that I feel makes them the favourites to go straight back up to the Championship this season.
I’d fancy Sunderland, Portsmouth, Blackpool, Lincoln City and Doncaster Rovers to be amongst the teams chasing them while you can never rule Tranmere Rovers out after two dramatic promotions in the playoffs in the past two years.
However, I can see a tough year for the likes of Bolton, who start the season with a -12 points penalty for going into administration last season, while the cash strapped clubs like Bury, Coventry City, Bristol Rovers and AFC Wimbledon could find it hard going once again.
League One Opening Day Fixtures
- AFC Wimbledon v Rotherham United
- Blackpool v Bristol Rovers
- Burton Albion. V Ipswich Town
- Bury v Milton Keynes Dons
- Coventry City v Southend United
- Doncaster Rovers v Gillingham
- Lincoln City v Accrington Stanley
- Peterborough United v Fleetwood Town
- Shrewsbury Town v Portsmouth
- Sunderland v Oxford United
- Tranmere Rovers v Rochdale
- Wycombe Wanderers v Bolton Wanderers
League One Outright Winners Tip – Ipswich Town
League Two Preview
Leyton Orient returned to the league and avfter the death of their manager Justin Edinburgh following the seasons end, it will be a very emotional day at Brisbane Road for the game with Cheltenham. The O’s should be safe enough in this division and I also feel newly promoted Salford City should also enjoy a relatively comfortable first-ever campaign in League football.
I think the likes of Port Vale, Morecambe, Cambridge United and Cheltenham Town may well struggle this season, while Swindon Town and Carlisle United are two teams that I think will surprise many and go very well. Forest Green Rovers, if they can sort out their home form, are certainly one to watch too while I think both Devonian clubs, Exeter and Plymouth should also be pushing on towards the top places.
I think the teams coming down will have a major say and of those teams I think Scunthorpe will be the ones to bounce back well. It will also be interesting to see how Sol Campbell performs in his first full season as Macclesfield manager after saving them from the drop last season.
League Two Opening Day Fixtures
- Salford City v Stevenage Borough (12.30pm)
- Bradford City v Cambridge United
- Carlisle United v Crawley Town
- Colchester United v Port Vale
- Crewe Alexandra v Plymouth Argyle
- Exeter City v Macclesfield Town
- Forest Green Rovers v Oldham Athletic
- Leyton Orient v Cheltenham Town
- Morecambe v Grimsby Town
- Newport County v Mansfield Town
- Northampton Town v Walsall
- Scunthorpe United v Swindon Town
League Two Outright Winners Tip – Scunthorpe United