League football is officially back!
This weekend marks the start of the 2020/21 league season across the EFL's three divisions and, in preparation for the big kick-off, we've taken an in-depth look at what's coming up in matchday one...
It all begins at Vicarage Road on Friday evening (11 September), with a clash that pits Watford manager Vladimir Ivic - a man taking charge of a league match in England for the first time - against Middlesbrough boss Neil Warnock, who is within touching distance of his 1,500th competitive game as a manager. Indeed, Boro will be the 12th different side that Warnock has started a Football League season with, and it will be a tough test against one of the early favourites for promotion.
Into Saturday, and the Championship promises to pick up where it left off, with a host of entertaining fixtures on the cards. In one of two early kick-offs; Wycombe, competing at this level for the first time in their history, face Rotherham, who were also promoted from League One at the end of the 2019/20 campaign. This will be the first opening-day clash between two newly promoted sides in England’s second tier since the 1991/92 campaign, when Grimsby Town lost 3-4 at home to Cambridge United.
The other early start sees Brentford head to Birmingham City, hoping to go one better after suffering Play-Off Final defeat to Fulham at Wembley a little over a month ago. In the traditional Saturday 3pm kick-offs, AFC Bournemouth start with a home fixture against Blackburn Rovers, newly promoted Coventry City head to Bristol City and Huddersfield Town host Norwich City.
There's just as much to look forward to in Sky Bet League One, with 22 of the 24 teams in action on Saturday afternoon. Those fixtures include away trips for two of last season's relegated sides, Charlton Athletic and Hull City - to Crewe Alexandra and Gillingham respectively. The former represents just the second league meeting between the sides since the turn of the century.
Elsewhere, two sides who have been busy during the transfer window meet in Devon, as newly promoted Plymouth Argyle welcome Blackpool to Home Park. As always, there will be plenty of attention on Sunderland AFC and Portsmouth, both of whom begin with home fixtures, against Bristol Rovers and Shrewsbury respectively. Sunderland are unbeaten in their 14 home league games against Rovers (W9 D5), netting an impressive 40 goals in the process.
2019/20 League Two champions Swindon Town are up against Rochdale on the opening day, while Sunday's only match-up sees Ipswich Town take on Wigan Athletic at Portman Road.
League Two looks set to be an extremely competitive division this season, with the likes of Bolton Wanderers, Bradford City and Tranmere Rovers all in the mix. Bolton are the bookies' favourites for promotion in 2020/21, and kick things off with a home fixture against Forest Green Rovers - the first-ever competitive meeting between the two.
By contrast, Harrogate Town will become the 145th different side to compete in the EFL when they make the long trip to Southend United. Only one of the last six sides have lost their first-ever game in the League (AFC Wimbledon losing against Bristol Rovers in 2011).
Saturday will also be a special day for those associated with Barrow, who will embark on their first season in the League since 1971/72, with their 48 seasons between appearances in the top four tiers an all-time record. David Dunn's side host Stevenage, and will be looking for the perfect start to life back in League Two.
Another side to keep an eye on this season will be Salford City, who have recruited well throughout the summer and face a test against Exeter City in their opening match. Salford will be starting consecutive EFL campaigns on home soil, beating Stevenage 2-0 last season in what was their first-ever game in the League, and this match could well be an early indicator for both sides.
What is certain is that we can expect another season full of exciting football, twists and turns. Don't miss a minute of the action - subscribe to the EFL's official streaming service, iFollow, here.