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Preview: Sky Bet Championship – Matchday 1

3 August 2018

The EFL season is back! Three days of action get things going, and the Sky Bet Championship gets 2018/19 under way with a dose of Friday night football. We preview the action…

Kicking things off

The EFL season returns on Friday 3 August with a Championship clash between teams that, last season, endured very different campaigns.

Reading, who avoided the drop last term by a three-point margin, host Derby County, who finished as beaten semi-finalists in the Play-Offs by eventual promotion winners Fulham.

Both clubs are led by managers looking to make their mark on their respective teams; Paul Clement will start his first season as Royals boss having taken the job in March of this year, while former England international Frank Lampard takes his first step in senior management in charge of the Rams.

The two old friends – Clement having worked as Chelsea’s assistant manager during Lampard’s time in west London – will meet in opposing dugouts on Friday evening in what could be a formative season for both men.

Bielsa’s bow

Fast forward to Sunday afternoon, with all-but-one opening weekend fixture out of the way, and Stoke City travel to Leeds United having been tipped as favourites for promotion.

Yet again, both clubs feature new managers. Gary Rowett joined Stoke after guiding Derby to the Play-Offs, while Marcelo Bielsa embarks upon his first season in English football having previously taken charge of the like of his native Argentina, Athletic Bilbao and Marseille.

With his experience it is, therefore, no surprise that Leeds have big expectations for the season ahead too. A positive start to the 2017/18 campaign got fans excited before form began to tail off which resulted in a mid-table finish.

Rowett is boosted by recent signings, as well as the news that Joe Allen is set to stay with the Potters, and will be hoping to earn a Premier League return at the first time of asking.

Around the grounds

Newly promoted Blackburn Rovers begin the return to the Sky Bet Championship with a trip to Ipswich Town, who are now led by former Shrewsbury Town boss Paul Hurst, while Rotherham United travel to Brentford for their first game back in the division.

The other side to have come up from League One, completing the hat-trick of clubs to bounce straight back having been crowned champions of the division, is Wigan Athletic, who will have the benefit of making their return at home when Sheffield Wednesday visit the DW Stadium.

West Bromwich Albion and Swansea City, both returning to the Championship following extended stays in the Premier League, face Bolton Wanderers at home and Sheffield United away respectively, while Monday night sees Aston Villa travel to Hull City having been defeated in last term’s Play-Off Final.

Four relatively long-distance trips make up the rest of the fixtures as Preston North End host QPR, Middlesbrough head to Millwall, Bristol City take on Nottingham Forest at Ashton Gate and Birmingham City go east to Norwich City.

Friday 3 August

Reading v Derby County

Saturday 4 August

Birmingham City v Norwich City
Brentford v Rotherham United
Bristol City v Nottingham Forest
Ipswich Town v Blackburn Rovers
Millwall v Middlesbrough
Preston North End v Queens Park Rangers
Sheffield United v Swansea City
West Bromwich Albion v Bolton Wanderers
Wigan Athletic v Sheffield Wednesday

Sunday 5 August

Leeds United v Stoke City

Monday 6 August

Hull City v Aston Villa

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