The English football season finally returns and on Friday night, the EFL Championship gets underway with a cracking looking opener from Hillsborough, as newly promoted Sheffield Wednesday take on newly relegated Southampton.
We’ve previewed the match and provided you with our best bets for the occasion.
Things couldn’t be much more different as we enter the new season, for these two sides heading in opposite directions.
Sheffield Wednesday (2/1) had a ridiculous League One play off campaign, overcoming a 4-0 deficit in the semi final against Peterborough, before beating local rivals Barnsley 1-0 at Wembley.
Promotion to the second tier was ultimately not enough to save manager Darren Moore’s job and in came new boss Xisco Munoz, who achieved promotion from the Championship, with Watford back in 2021.
The Hillsborough crowd can be a loud but opinionated bunch and with a thin looking squad, if things don’t get off to a flyer, the Spaniard could find himself under early pressure.
First up for the Owls, are fallen Premier League mainstays, Southampton (13/10), whose Houdini-esque escapes finally ran out of time, with the Saints drowned to the relative obscurity of the Championship.
Sacking Ralph Hasenhuttl looked a gamble at the time and it was proved so, with Nathan Jones in and out before he could shake it all about and Ruben Selles unable to turn things around in his interim role.
Russell Martin is the next man in the St Mary’s hot seat and it’s clear from his time in charge of MK Dons and Swansea exactly what type of football the Saints will play this season.
Possession, possession, possession is Martin’s hallmark and they certainly have the talent in their squad currently to do so. Will they also be able to provide a finishing product to match?
Sheffield Wednesday are without youngster Ciaran Brennan and are also sweating on the fitness of Liam Palmer and Mallik Wilks.
New signings Pol Valentin, Di-Shon Bernard, Juan Delgado and Ashley Fletcher could all feature for the Owls from the off.
Southampton have managed to hang on to the majority of their highly talented squad and though he has been heavily linked through the summer, James Ward-Prowse is still a Saints player.
Juan Larios is the only confirmed absentee for Russell Martin’s side.
Southampton to win – 13/10
Hillsborough can be the loudest and the quietest place in the Championship on nights like Friday.
If the South Yorkshire side get off to a good start then the Owlerton massive will get right behind them and it could be a night to remember.
If however, Saints strangle the game and never let Wednesday get the ball, it could become like the proverbial library.
It remains unclear how many players will leave Southampton before the end of the summer transfer window but as it stands, they have one of the best squads in the second tier and should have too much for Munoz & Co.
Nathan Tella first goal scorer – 9/2
The Burnley Chairman Alan Pace caused controversy this week, as he shared a “Free Nathan Tella” post on his Instagram account.
The post relates to the Southampton wingers superb spell at Turf Moor last season, as he scored 19 goals for the Clarets and fired them to the Premier League.
However, Tella is still a Saints player and has been featuring heavily for the south coast club in pre season.
The 24-year-old displayed his class in this division last season and can do so again here, as a finishing point for Martin’s possession based tactics.
Tella also tends to scores goals in bunches and I’m hoping to capitalise on this with Betfred’s Double Delight/Hat-Trick Heaven promotion.
If the Southampton man scores first and then goes on to score a second, you will be paid at double the odds (9/1). If he gets a third you’ll be paid at treble (27/2).