Luton v Peterborough
Jack Critchley selects the best bets from Saturday’s 3pm kick offs in the Championship starting with newly-promoted Peterborough’s trip to Kenilworth Road.
Jack says: “Despite the loss of goalscorer James Collins, Luton are expected to have a decent campaign and manager Nathan Jones will be looking to build upon last year’s 12th place finish.
“Jones’ teams tend to embody their coach and they are full of energy and determination. They traditionally make a fast start to the campaign and having won nine of their last 13 opening day fixtures, they will be expected to take three points against newly promoted Peterborough United.
“Posh are playing at this level for the first time in almost a decade and Darren Ferguson‘s men are likely to be competitive, however, it may take them a couple of weeks to find their feet in the Championship.
“With several of their signings have arrived from League One and Two, the visitors may need time to acclimatise. As a result, it makes sense to back Luton at 2.285/4 to start the season with a home success. They dropped far too many points here last season, but their significantly bolstered squad and the returning supporters should give them an extra edge.”
Harrogate v Rochdale
Harrogate embark on their second season in the Football League with an opening match at home to Rochdale. Our fourth tier expert Ian Lamont backs the hosts as he too bids to start the new season with a winner.
Ian says: “Harrogate boss Simon Weaver signed a number of players last January to steady the ship after a tricky start to life in the EFL. This summer he has bedded in seven new players, plus re-signed key faces George Thomson and Jack Muldoon.
“Muldoon top scored for the Wetherby Road outfit in 2020-21, for the third season running. Thompson was player of the year, taking his goal tally to 30 and assists to 44 in 160 appearances which have helped steer the Sulphurites from Conference North to League Two. But if Cullen represents the calibre of player Harrogate can attract, the trajectory is only up. That winger with added zest would be the gold dust on the cake.
“A couple of defenders with experience have also been added, such as Jake Lawlor. Harrogate will look to be hard to beat at home.
“Rochdale boss Robbie Stockdale, by contrast, was appointed in July and hasn’t made huge numbers of signings. Four players age 23 or under, two on loan, doesn’t shout experience. Defenders Sam Graham (Sheffield United) and Max Taylor (Manchester United) are joined by loanees Corey O’Keeffe (Mansfield) and George Broadbent (Sheffield United). The EFL have yet to see evidence of a potential investor’s funds. And when financial stories start to dominate the agenda at a club you can be sure of turbulence.
“Opta remind us that Harrogate started their EFL history last season away, at Southend, winning 4-0. I don’t think the margin will be that big, but they are on a roll after a fine first season in the division and can earn victory.”
Leicester v Manchester City
Manchester City are the favourites to win the traditional season curtain-raiser at Wembley on Saturday. But Leicester surprised Chelsea here to win the FA Cup in May so could the Foxes be value at 4.03/1 to win 90 minutes? Read our preview.
Dan Fitch says: “With Leicester facing defensive issues, while still having plenty of attacking talent, it would be a surprise if the goals didn’t flow. Both teams to score is 1.715/7, with over 2.5 goals available at 1.748/11.
“You can back Manchester City to score over 1.5 goals at 1.834/5. A Manchester City win and over 2.5 goals is 2.89/5, while you can back the Premier League champions to win and both teams to score, at odds of 3.55/2.
“Despite all of the attacking talent that Manchester City possess, it’s Leicester’s Jamie Vardy who’s the favourite to score at 2.47/5. For Manchester City, Gabriel Jesus leads the betting at 2.68/5.”
Charlton Athletic v Sheffield Wednesday
The League One season begins this weekend and our resident third tier betting expert Alan Dudman has three tips including one for Saturday’s live Sky TV game at the Valley.
Alan says: “Sheffield Wednesday’s spending ability and pulling power have seen a number of impressive signings under Darren Moore over summer. Moore has moved quickly to get some of his top targets, including Lee Gregory the former Millwall man – a fine source of goals. Indeed, Moore has plentiful options up front following the arrivals of Theo Corbeanu from Wolves and Florian Kamberi from St Gallen.
“Eleven incomings and a huge rebuild is underway and Moore will know the division well from his brief spell at Doncaster. He’d taken Rovers on the cusp of the play-offs and he’s got a far superior squad on his hands now. He looks the right fit for the Owls, who are priced at 11.521/2 in the Winner market.
“Backing them at 2.982/1 makes plenty of appeal and according to the Opta stats, they have won five of their last seven opening games of the season. Charlton’s record is eight from 13.
“Charlton are quite difficult to assess under Nigel Adkins, who gave it everything at the end of last term for a shot at post-season football.
“However, their problem for much of the campaign was their home record, and backing Charlton on the road always made more sense with a superior record (12 win on the road compared to eight at the Valley).”
Sheffield United v Birmingham
The Blades are 3.185/40 for promotion as they begin life back in the Championship at home to Birmingham City. Mark O’Haire believes the Blues can get something at Bramall Lane.
Mark says: “Slavisa Jokanovic’s appointment suggests Sheffield United will be taking a front-foot approach to life back in the second-tier. The Blades must transition their mind-set from plucky underdogs to consistent pre-match jollies with the Serbian eager to see his new team make the running in matches, dominating opponents with an expansive attacking system.
“In contrast, Birmingham could look to conserve and contain, employing the counter-attack and exploiting set-piece opportunities. The Blues were successful in that regard during their relegation battle last term and a similar set-up would provide Sheff Utd with plenty to ponder. Either way, it makes a goals-based play difficult to get behind.
“Over 2.5 Goals has been chalked up at a reasonable 2.265/4 but instead I prefer the prospect of Birmingham stifling the underprepared Blades.
“Heading to the Asian Handicap market, we can support Blues with a +0.5 & +1.0 Asian Handicap start at 1.784/5. We’ll earn a full-stakes pay-out should City avoid defeat and only lose half of our stake should Sheff Utd win by exactly one goal. The only way in which our whole stake is lost is if the hosts triumph by two goals or more on Saturday night.”