English Football League action returns this weekend with the new Sky Bet Championship, League One and League Two seasons set to get under way.
Here, Football Paradise highlights five games to look out for on the opening weekend.
Reading v Derby (Sky Bet Championship, August 3)
Frank Lampard’s first steps in football management should make Derby’s Friday night trip to Reading an enticing watch. Chelsea’s record goalscorer was appointed on a three-year deal in May following more play-off heartache for the Rams. His first competitive game reunites him with Paul Clement, a man he was coached by at Stamford Bridge. The Royals came within a Wembley penalty shoot-out of promotion in 2017 and will want to re-establish themselves as a force after flirting with relegation last season.
Sheffield United v Swansea (Sky Bet Championship, August 4)
New Swansea manager Graham Potter was a rare arrival at the Liberty Stadium this summer. Since losing their Premier League status, the Swans have seen a host of important players depart, including goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, midfielder Ki Sung-yueng and forward Andre Ayew, with just a handful of teenagers coming in. A trip to Bramall Lane will be a testing start to their first season in the second tier since 2010/11. Chris Wilder’s Blades were not too far away from the top six in May and summer arrival John Egan, a club record signing from Brentford, believes promotion is realistic this season.
Leeds v Stoke (Sky Bet Championship, August 5)
Stoke spent a decade in the Premier League. Since relegation, they have spent big as they attempt to secure an immediate return. Under new boss Gary Rowett, the Potters have splashed more than £20million on Tom Ince, James McClean and Oghenekaro Etebo, and also brought in Benik Afobe and Adam Federici. The visiting supporters should contribute to a boisterous atmosphere at Elland Road on Sunday afternoon, while the home fans will be keen to see if experienced Argentinian coach Marcelo Bielsa can spark an upturn in their fortunes.
Sunderland v Charlton (Sky Bet League One, August 4)
A fixture which conjures up memories of the 4-4 draw in the 1998 Division One play-off final, which Charlton won on penalties. Both sides have been on downward spirals since dropping out of the top flight. Title favourites Sunderland, under new manager Jack Ross, have recruited numerous new players as they attempt to bounce back following successive relegations. Lee Bowyer’s Addicks, meanwhile, have added experienced midfielder Darren Pratley and striker Lyle Taylor to their squad and will hope to better last season’s play-off semi-final defeat.
Swindon v Macclesfield (Sky Bet League Two, August 4)
Back in the EFL following a six-year absence, Macclesfield face a tricky task to stay there, if the bookmakers’ odds are to believed. They begin their campaign at one of the favourites for promotion. Swindon fell short in their play-off push last campaign but could fare better in Phil Brown’s first full season in charge. The Robins boss has bolstered his ranks with a series of free transfers, including the arrival of former Brentford midfielder Toumani Diagouraga. The Silkmen also have a number of new faces and will hope striker Scott Wilson, who hit 14 goals in the National League last season, can continue to find the net at the next level after being rewarded with a new two-year contract.
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