Huddersfield to feast on faltering Rams
Championship: Back Huddersfield @ 1.758/11
Derby County begin the season in a state of turmoil, with concerns much larger than the result of a football match. But with no players signed and many having departed, Derby start the season with around 11 senior outfielders, at least two of which are injured. It is likely that one or two starters and the whole of their subs’ bench will be filled with untested academy players.
They are not ready for this campaign to begin.
Opponents Huddersfield are also expected to struggle this season, but in contrast to Derby their squad was built early this summer, pre-season has gone smoothly and they have even tasted competitive football already, beating Sheffield Wednesday in the Carabao Cup on penalties.
It is hard to imagine the Derby County team being in the right place both physically and mentally for competitive football. I expect Huddersfield to win comfortably and, should they be leading at half-time, pull further clear in the second half.
Huddersfied -1 at 12/5 also appeals.
Wigan value for upset win
League One: Back Wigan @ 3.814/5
At a longer price, we fancy Wigan to kick off the season in strong fashion as they head to the Stadium of Light at an appealing 14/5.
Around 30,000 Sunderland fans will pack the stadium, but the Mackems team looks only semi-constructed, with issues in defence meaning they begin the season with players likely having to fill in out of position.
Wigan, by contrast, have got their business done early. Not only that, it’s eye-catching business, with a forward line that is the envy of the division.
After a magnificent survival last time, Wigan Athletic feel like the side more ready to hit the ground running. If they do, this could be the last time this season that we have a chance to back them at a price like this. With both teams looking stronger in the final third than the defensive one, there should be goals on the cards, too.
Harrogate primed for three points
League Two: Back Harrogate @ 2.26/5
Along a similar theme, this looks like a side that would rather the season began in four weeks (Rochdale) up against one that cannot wait to get started.
Harrogate impressed in their first ever EFL season. They are well-run, well-backed and have an influential manager in Simon Weaver, who has added experienced defenders and extra firepower.
Rochdale are coping with off-field distraction in the form of a “hostile takeover”, and have not had an easy summer following relegation, losing key players from last campaign (Humphreys, Rathbone & Lund among others) and only making their first signings this week, three of them arriving with next to no senior experience.
Rookie Manager Robbie Stockdale is not working under ideal conditions and his Dale side feel up against it as they head to North Yorkshire to play a team that had a strong record against bottom half sides last season.
Assal to launch attacking assault
A diminutive 19 year-old attacker, Assal burst onto the scene during AFC Wimbledon’s survival tilt at the back end of the last season, bagging a few goals to catch our eye.
Seemingly playing a key role in an advanced position in pre-season, Assal looks set to thrive under former Academy Manager Mark Robinson, who knows how to make him tick.
There is an amazing atmosphere around Plough Lane, with every chance they could start the season strongly. If they do so at Doncaster this weekend, Assal’s quality and enterprise should shine through. We feel he’s a touch too long to score here and want to make the most of that.