Blackburn Rovers v Charlton Athletic
Charlton won promotion to the Championship but winning the League One play-off final, but all thoughts quickly translated towards how tough the upcoming campaign would be. Patrick Bauer and Joe Aribo have departed for Preston and Rangers respectively, leaving big shoes to fill at The Valley. The future of Lee Bowyer was a major talking point, and at one stage it appeared certain he would be leaving. However, he penned an extension to keep him on, but he has had to play catch-up considering the time it took to sort out such off-the-field issues.
Blackburn on the other hand have had quite a productive summer. Several new faces have been added to really give Tony Mowbray depth across his roster. Christian Walton, Bradley Johnson and Sam Gallagher will all threaten the starting eleven, whilst Stewart Downing adds great experience and versatility at this level. Having last season to consolidate at this level has provided them with a frame to now really kick on.
On paper, this is possibly one of the better fixtures Blackburn could have asked for to open the campaign. Charlton are arguably weaker than last season and having to play at a higher level. Charlton had the best defensive record in League One last season, but Bauer was as big reason for that. A frontline of Adam Armstrong, Bradley Dack, Gallagher and Danny Graham will severely test The Addicks on the opening day, and that could be the feeling difference on the day.
Rovers ended last season losing just once in six, and four of those ended in victory. Whilst continuing momentum from season-to-season is never easy, there is still a feeling of optimism around Ewood Park that they can cause a surprise or two over the campaign. Four of their six home defeats last season came versus the top-eight, and with Charlton tipped to struggle then Mowbray will be keen to get three points on the board, even at this early stage. Blackburn beat the likes of Leeds, West Brom and Derby on home soil, too.
There are still some doubts for Charlton with regards to their line-up and system, whilst Blackburn already look to have quite a settled eleven in place to kick-start their Championship run. Therefore, with too many questions marks surrounding Charlton, I think Blackburn are the safe play on this occasion.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Blackburn -0.50 at 1.870
Swansea City v Hull City
There was some concern around the Liberty Stadium when Steve Cooper was announced as the replacement for Graham Potter. This will be his first senior football management role, having had success in the England youth setups. However, if pre-season is anything to go by, then the Swans could be a team to watch out for. They were the kings of the Expected Goals (xG) stats last season, with their end product perhaps letting them down too often. Cooper has trimmed his squad, and whilst they may lack depth, they have an eleven to the envy of most at this level.
It has certainly been a tough summer for Hull City. Nigel Adkins departed after his contract expired, and Grant McCann was appointed following a decent spell at Doncaster Rovers. Finances however are clearly on the stretch at the KCOM Stadium considering the bulk of their summer recruits have been free transfers. They look particularly light in attack, whilst Markus Henriksen is another expected to leave before the transfer window closes.
One worry for Swansea however is that Oliver McBurnie could be about to leave for Sheffield United, so it’d be interesting to see if he is selected by Cooper on Saturday. Nevertheless, Swansea don’t really have problems creating chances, and they should really put Hull under a lot of pressure. Swansea began last season winning their first two, and they’ll fancy their chances of a repeat this time around.
The Tigers actually claimed four points across the two meetings with Swansea last season, with both ending 3-2 and 2-2. Swansea were perhaps too offensive for their own good and let themselves down defensively, but Cooper will have undoubtedly done his homework to improve upon that. Home form will be key for any success they have, and all their four home losses last season came versus the top-eight.
Hull struggled on their travels last season when facing the stronger calibre of opposition. They beat all of the bottom three on the road, but won versus one of the top half away, also failing to score versus five of those teams. Hull are much weaker on paper this time around and McCann wants quite a few new faces before the window closes, which suggests he isn’t entirely happy right now.
McCann is unlikely to field Tom Eaves from the start here either, the player who impressed at League One level and has been set the task of supplying the goals for Hull, so they may play quite a defensive game. This will only play into the hands of Swansea, who happily play a patient passing game and often create two or three major openings per game, especially at home. Swansea should be too strong at home.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Swansea -0.50 at 2.020
Huddersfield Town v Derby County
It was well-documented that Huddersfield have big, big issues scoring goals last season. They ended the campaign netting only 22 times, so it was no surprise to see them relegated. Ironically, that was two short of the all-time record for lowest goals scored by a team in the top flight; a record set by Derby in 2007/08. After two seasons they are back in the Championship and it is just as competitive as ever. Instant promotion will be a big ask, especially as Jan Siewert manages in this division for the first time.
It is the German’s first full season with the club having inherited a sink ship in January, and it is now when he will ultimately be judged. One obvious area of improvement is in attack, and it looks as though big reliance is to be placed upon 21-year-old Karlan Ahearne-Grant to deliver the goods. They have several strong players for this league like Alex Pritchard and Aaron Mooy, but this team is not used to winning games and they may need some time to adjust to life back in the second tier.
Derby have had a summer of change after Frank Lampard expectedly returned to Chelsea. What wasn’t necessarily expected was that Dutchman Phillip Cocu would replace him. He hasn’t made mass changes in terms of personnel, but filling the voids left by Fikayo Tomori, Mason Mount and Harry Wilson will be a challenge. He is however a coach that will give players a chance, especially the younger ones, and The Rams has a talented Academy structure which will lead to opportunities in the coming months.
Whilst there is a fear of a play-off hangover, the change of manager could help cure that, even if nobody wanted Lampard to leave. Huddersfield will find it tough to just switch things on and compete at this level, something other relegated sides have struggled with in recent times. Derby are proven at this level having made the top-ten for seven seasons running, and the play-offs in three of the last four campaigns.
This selection is more based on how Huddersfield will need time to discover themselves again but Derby are no pushovers anyway. They beat Norwich and West Brom on the road last season, scoring four on each occasion, plus you get the impression a draw wouldn’t be the worst result for either side to open the season. Derby are also unbeaten in their first match since the 2008/09 season.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Derby +0.50 at 1.709
Preview by: @JamesOR1.
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