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Match Previews

Preview: EFL Opening Weekend

4 August 2017

The #EFL is back! All 72 clubs take to the pitch on an action-packed opening weekend, with games taking place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Here's our Matchday 1 preview...

New managers meet

One of the most intriguing meetings of the Sky Bet Championship's opening weekend pits Wolverhampton Wanderers against recently relegated Middlesbrough, a fixture which sees two managers take charge of their clubs in a competitive fixture for the first time.

Back in May, Wolves appointed Portuguese boss Nuno Espirito Santo as the man to lead them into the new campaign, while Garry Monk departed his role at Leeds United and took the reins at the Riverside in June.

Both men have smashed their clubs' record transfer fee during a busy summer of shopping. Ruben Neves followed his former boss from Porto to Molineux, and Monk snapped up Britt Assombalonga from Nottingham Forest to bolster Boro's attacking options.

Hull reunion for Bruce

Steve Bruce’s Aston Villa side begin their campaign with a fixture against one of the Villans boss’ former clubs in Hull City, at Villa Park on Saturday tea time — live in front of the Sky Sports cameras.

The game should see newly appointed Villa captain John Terry make his competitive debut for his new side, along with others, such as Ahmed Elmohamady, who arrived from the KCOM Stadium in the summer.

It’ll be the first time new Tigers boss Leonid Slutsky will take charge of the men from Humberside in a league encounter, after the Russian took over in June of this year.

Hull City: Will the Tigers roar again?

Around the grounds

Friday night’s clash between Sunderland and Derby County will be the first time the sides have met at this level for 10 years, and the Rams have gone 10 matches since last getting better of the Black Cats.

Elsewhere, Sheffield United make their return to the Sky Bet Championship, and they get their season under way on home turf, with Brentford the visitors to Bramall Lane on Saturday afternoon.

Fulham get 2017/18 going at Craven Cottage versus Norwich City, while the other two unsuccessful play-off campaigners last season are on the road — Sheffield Wednesday visit Preston North End, and Reading go to Loftus Road to take on Queens Park Rangers.

The final match-up of the weekend sees Bolton Wanderers and Leeds United face off at the Macron Stadium. The Trotters won automatic promotion from Sky Bet League One last term, and their opening fixture is another to be televised live on Sky Sports, at 4:30pm on Sunday.

Sky Bet Championship: Matchday 1 fixtures (3pm unless stated)

Friday 4th August 2017

Nottingham Forest v Millwall (7:45pm)
Sunderland v Derby County (7:45pm - live on Sky Sports)

Saturday 5th August 2017

Aston Villa v Hull City (5:30pm - live on Sky Sports)
Bristol City v Barnsley
Burton Albion v Cardiff City
Fulham v Norwich City
Ipswich Town v Birmingham City
Nottingham Forest v Millwall
Preston North End v Sheffield Wednesday
Queens Park Rangers v Reading
Sheffield United v Brentford
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Middlesbrough

Sunday 6th August 2017

Bolton Wanderers v Leeds United (4:30pm - live on Sky Sports)

Rovers return

Doncaster Rovers achieved instant promotion back to English football’s third tier, with Darren Ferguson’s men finishing in the top three of Sky Bet League Two last term.

The Keepmoat Stadium is the setting for Rovers’ season opener, where Gillingham, led by Adrian Pennock, are the visitors.

The men from South Yorkshire have been given an added boost ahead of the new campaign, with John Marquis putting pen to paper on a new deal. After hitting 26 goals last term, the striker could well be pivotal in ensuring Rovers fare better than their last season in League One.

Tough test for Tangerines

Another side to bounce back into Sky Bet League One at the first time of asking, Blackpool have been handed the task of travelling to last season’s beaten play-off finalists on the opening weekend of the season.

Mark Cullen’s second-half winner at Wembley secured a 2-1 victory over Exeter City back in May and with it, League One football for 2017-18.

It’s Stuart McCall’s Bradford City who’ll they’ll face first, and it’s certainly not an easy task for the Seasiders, after the Bantams successfully negotiated the 2016/17 campaign without tasting defeat at home.

Around the grounds

Graham Alexander’s Scunthorpe United missed out on promotion last time out, finishing third and falling short in the play-offs, and they open with a clash against AFC Wimbledon at Glanford Park.

Portsmouth’s first stint in Sky Bet League One for four years begins with the visit of Keith Hill’s Rochdale to Fratton Park, whereas fellow promoted side Plymouth Argyle face Peterborough United away at the ABAX Stadium.

There’s an away journey for Blackburn Rovers too, as Tony Mowbray and his players take on Phil Brown’s Southend United at Roots Hall.

Fellow relegated sides Rotherham United and Wigan Athletic will also travel on the opening weekend, as they face off against Fleetwood Town and Milton Keynes Dons respectively.

Sky Bet League One: Matchday 1 fixtures

Saturday 5th August 2017

Bradford City v Blackpool
Bury v Walsall
Charlton Athletic v Bristol Rovers
Doncaster Rovers v Gillingham
Fleetwood Town v Rotherham United
Milton Keynes Dons v Wigan Athletic
Oldham Athletic v Oxford United
Peterborough United v Plymouth Argyle
Portsmouth v Rochdale
Scunthorpe United v AFC Wimbledon
Shrewsbury Town v Northampton Town
Southend United v Blackburn Rovers

Imps on the road

After their FA Cup exploits last season and their title-winning National League campaign, Lincoln City start life back in the EFL with an away fixture against Wycombe Wanderers.

Manager Danny Cowley has bolstered his selection with additions such as Matt Green, and he’ll be hoping the former Mansfield striker can fire his side to a strong finish in Sky Bet League Two.

Their opponents too enjoyed a extended stay in the FA Cup last term — reaching the fourth round before a dramatic 4-3 reverse against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane.

Forest Green’s first fixture

Forest Green Rovers make their EFL debut when they play host to Barnet at the New Lawn on Saturday.

Five things: Storylines to look out for in Matchday 1

Mark Cooper’s men secured Sky Bet League Two football thanks to a 3-1 Wembley victory over Tranmere Rovers in the National League promotion final back in May.

They meet a Barnet side who finished 15th in the table last time out, with Rossi Eames beginning his first full season in charge of the Bees.

Around the grounds

Both Chesterfield and Coventry City start off life in the division at home, as Grimsby Town and Notts County visit the Proact Stadium and Ricoh Arena respectively.

Last season’s other two relegated sides have away trips on the opening day however, with Swindon Town travelling to Carlisle United, and Michael Brown taking his Port Vale team to Crawley Town.

Exeter City, who reached the 2016/17 play-off final, meet Cambridge United at St James’ Park, with Paul Tisdale and his players aiming to go one better this time round.

A new-look Mansfield Town visit Crewe Alexandra, Newport County are away at Stevenage after last season’s great escape, and Luton Town are at home to Yeovil Town — following a summer where the Hatters added 22-goal Crawley striker James Collins to partner the prolific Danny Hylton at Kenilworth Road.

Sky Bet League Two: Matchday 1 fixtures

Saturday 5th August 2017

Accrington Stanley v Colchester United
Carlisle United v Swindon Town
Chesterfield v Grimsby Town
Coventry City v Notts County
Crawley Town v Port Vale
Crewe Alexandra v Mansfield Town
Exeter City v Cambridge United
Forest Green Rovers v Barnet
Luton Town v Yeovil Town
Morecambe v Cheltenham Town
Stevenage v Newport County
Wycombe Wanderers v Lincoln City

Click here to see the match officials on duty this weekend

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