The Sky Bet Championship season kicks off on Friday night and as is so often the case it begins with a promoted side up against a relegated side as Sheffield Wednesday host Southampton at what should be a packed Hillsborough.
Sheffield Wednesday have waited a couple of seasons to be playing Championship football again while Southampton will be hoping that this is their only year of it. Both will be eyeing up a big start which should make for a decent game.
Where to watch
The match will be shown live and in full on the Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Football channels with an extended build-up beginning at 7pm and the kick off coming at 8pm.
You would have to say that Sheffield Wednesday did things the hard way last season, although to be fair to them that was only really down to how good Ipswich Town and Plymouth Argyle were because in a normal season the points haul that Wednesday collected would have been enough for the title let alone automatic promotion. To their credit, they dusted themselves down and came through the play-offs in incredible fashion.
In that competition we saw the best of Wednesday and the worst of them. They were terrible in the first leg of their semi-final but achieved the impossible in the second but now they are going to transition from a direct style under Darren Moore to a more pragmatic one under Xisco Munoz and it will be interesting to see how quickly that change happens. It always worries me when teams go that way though and seeing the Owls with my own eyes last week I wasn’t impressed.
Heading into this opening game things aren’t looking too bad for Southampton as they go about immediately bouncing back into the Premier League, but the concern is how much different things will look when the transfer window closes at the end of the month. If they avoid too many big departures then there is enough in this squad to push for promotion if not the title but if too many of those players leave then things could get messy.
As it is, Saints kick off the season with their squad in good shape so now the only question over them remains about how quickly they have adapted to the Russell Martin style of passing everyone to death. He too has something to prove but you do wonder if the new style Sheffield Wednesday might play into their hands a little. If Southampton can make a good start here they will think they have the quality to make an impact on the game.
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Xisco Munoz is expected to give a competitive debut to the likes of Di’Shon Bernard, Bambo Diaby, Juan Delgado and Ashley Fletcher in this match with Josh Windass and Michael Smith likely to be offered roles further forward.
Southampton look like they will have Romeo Lavia available for this match ahead of a potential move and James Ward-Prowse hasn’t gone anywhere either. Che Adams, Carlos Alcaraz and Nathan Tella are all expected to start too.
All things being equal I would be happy to side with Southampton in this match. As I said above I wasn’t impressed at all with Sheffield Wednesday when I saw them last weekend but the problem with backing Southampton is with so many transfer rumours around we don’t want to tie up a load of money and then someone gets pulled out of the squad in the lead up to the game because a bid has come in for one of their stars.
That leads me to the other bet that I like which comes in the form of the goals. We saw the impact the crowd can have on this Sheffield Wednesday side at Hillsborough in the play-offs and their physical front players can certainly impact this game but the quality Southampton have with the ball should be equally as potent. I doubt Russell Martin will have tightened up the Saints defence this quickly and the Sheffield Wednesday one was anything but tight towards the end of last season. This all spells quite an entertaining season opener to me with a few goals.
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