The 2021/22 season gets underway for clubs in all three divisions of the EFL this weekend.
The action begins on Friday evening, with Bournemouth taking on newly-relegated West Bromwich Albion at Dean Court in the Championship.
A total of 33 matches will take place across the three divisions on Saturday, with Sheffield United’s clash with Birmingham City the late televised kick-off in the second tier.
A further two Championship matches take place on Sunday, with Fulham hosting Middlesbrough before Nottingham Forest travel to Coventry.
Let’s take a look at five of the fixtures to watch out for ahead of the opening weekend:
Bournemouth v West Bromwich Albion (Championship)
The EFL curtain raiser could provide one of the most compelling narratives of the weekend.
It is Scott Parker’s first game in charge of Bournemouth after he left Fulham – and the Cherries will be targeting promotion after play-off failure last season.
West Brom, meanwhile, also have a new boss in Valerien Ismael. They’ll be targeting a swift return back to the top flight after relegation last season, and this fixture is a chance for either side to put down an early marker.
Blackburn Rovers v Swansea City (Championship)
Swansea’s trip to Blackburn Rovers this weekend will see new head coach Russell Martin take charge of the Swans for the first time.
It has been a hectic pre-season for the club. Steve Cooper left his role as head coach by mutual consent last month, just weeks before the season began.
The search for his replacement concluded last week, with Martin leaving MK Dons to take up the post.
The Scot is known for his attractive playing style, he does have early problems to overcome. Andre Ayew left the club upon the expiry of his contract in June, whilst captain Matt Grimes has been linked with an exit.
Blackburn, meanwhile, will be aiming their sights higher than the 15th place they achieved last season.
At the time of writing, though, they have made no new additions this summer – manager Tony Mowbray expects to replace only a “handful” of the club’s 11 departures, according to the Lancashire Telegraph – and they face a fight to hang on to star striker Adam Armstrong.
Charlton Athletic v Sheffield Wednesday (League One)
Sheffield Wednesday have endured a torrid last 18 months, going through three managers and suffering relegation from the Championship, ultimately as a result of a six-point deduction for Financial Fair Play breaches.
But they go into this season under the stewardship of Darren Moore, and with renewed optimism. Their summer transfer business has been encouraging, with the loan signings of Bailey Peacock-Farrell and Lewis Wing from Burnley and Middlesbrough respectively their most stand-out moves.
They’ve also, to date, kept hold of captain Barry Bannan. Should the influential midfielder remain at the club, he could have an big impact on the club’s fortunes this campaign.
Charlton, meanwhile, are also on the up. Owner Thomas Sandgaard acquired the club in September of last year, and under Nigel Adkins they will be looking to reach the play-offs. This could well be a mouth-watering clash.
Fleetwood Town v Portsmouth (League One)
Portsmouth’s future ambitions received a major boost when they tied manager Danny Cowley down to a new contract at the end of last season.
After missing out on the play-offs on the final day, Pompey will want to go one better – or perhaps more – this time around.
Fleetwood, meanwhile, have been managed by Simon Grayson since the beginning of 2021. The former Preston North End and Leeds boss is somewhat of a promotion specialist in the third tier, having guided teams out of the division on four occasions.
The ingredients are there for a top clash between the two sides on the opening day.
Forest Green v Sutton United (League Two)
Sutton United will play in their first-ever EFL match this weekend when they travel to Forest Green.
The U’s won the National League last season, helped majorly by going on a 14-match unbeaten run between February and April.
After several seasons competing near the top of the fifth tier of English football – amidst their FA Cup giant-killings – they will fear no-one upon making the step up.
An away trip to Forest Green isn’t perhaps the kindest start they could have been handed, but it’s a chance to show the rest of the division what they are capable of.
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