Fulham to start in style
Fulham are backed to win at Ipswich in our preview package for the weekend's Sky Bet Championship action.
The best bets from Nick Hext are here for the weekend's action in the Sky Bet Championship. Match-by-match score verdicts and team news will be published in this story on Friday.
Fulham travel to Ipswich for their first game of the Sky Bet Championship season and the Sky Sports cameras will be there on Saturday night. It has been a busy summer for Felix Magath as he revitalises his squad and I reckon he's done a decent job. Ross McCormack has caught the eye as the stellar purchase from Leeds but don't be surprised to see a number of Fulham's young stars get their chance to shine. Ipswich are proven Championship performers but I reckon the Cottagers have the quality to come away with the three points.
Molineux is the venue for the Sky Sports cameras on Sunday and I will again be backing one of the clubs relegated from the Premier League. Norwich open up against last season's League 1 champions Wolves and I think they are too big at 9/4 with Sky Bet to claim victory. There won't be much between the sides in this clash but there were signs of improvement from the Canaries last season under Neil Adams and a decent squad remains at Carrow Road.
Team news and match-by-match score verdicts:
Saturday August 9
Brentford are expected to be without new signing Scott Hogan (ankle) when they host Charlton on the opening day of the 2014-15 Sky Bet Championship season. Fellow summer arrival Tommy Smith could feature, while Bees boss Mark Warburton could also hand debuts to Moses Odubajo and Alan Judge.
Charlton boss Bob Peeters will take charge for the first time in a competitive fixture since his arrival in May and new signings Igor Vetokele and George Tucudean are set to form the Addicks' new-look attack. Callum Harriott remains Peeters' only injury concern, and other new arrivals Andre Bikey and Tal Ben Haim could be involved.
Last season: No corresponding fixture
Last five league matches: Brentford L W D L W; Charlton D W L W W
Referee: James Adcock (Nottinghamshire)
Sami Hyppia is expected to hand former Sheffield Wednesday striker Chris O'Grady his first start when Brighton begin their 2014/15 Sky Bet Championship campaign against the Owls. Fellow new signings David Stockdale and Aaron Hughes could also make their Seagulls debuts, but Nzuzi Toko, also a new arrival, is unlikely to start and midfielder Dale Stephens continues to struggle with an ankle injury.
Sheffield Wednesday trio Lewis Buxton, Jeremy Helan and Caolan Lavery all miss out, but summer signings Tom Lees and Dejan Kelhar are in contention to make their competitive debuts and fellow defender Kamil Zayatte is fit again following ankle surgery. New goalkeeper Keiren Westwood also hopes to be involved, while Glenn Loovens will lead the side.
Last season: Sheff Wed 1 Brighton 0, Brighton 1 Sheff Wed 1
Last five league matches: Brighton W D D W W; Sheff Wed D W L L L
Referee: James Linington (Isle of Wight)
Derby could be without Jake Buxton against Rotherham due to a hip flexor problem. Zak Whitbread (cracked rib) is also a doubt and Mark O'Brien (ankle) is injured, so Craig Forsyth may have to partner Richard Keogh in central defence with Lee Naylor coming in at left-back. George Thorne is a long-term absentee after suffering a cruciate knee ligament injury, but fellow summer signings Cyrus Christie, Leon Best and Omar Mascarell are all in contention.
Rotherham will be without new signing Frazer Richardson for their first game back in the second tier since 2005 due to a foot injury. Another new face, Febian Brandy, is also unlikely to be involved as he battles to be match fit.
Last season: No Corresponding fixture
Last five league matches: Derby W W W W D; Rotherham D L W D W
Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire)
Huddersfield striker James Vaughan (calf) is unlikely to be involved in his side's home game against Bournemouth due to a calf problem, while centre-half Anthony Gerrard has been ruled out due to a similar injury. Manager Mark Robins will name summer signing Lee Peltier as his captain and on-loan midfielder Radoslaw Majewski and Alex Smithies are likely to start, with new goalkeeper Joe Murphy expected to be among the substitutes.
Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe could hand untried goalkeeper Benji Buchel his debut. Yann Kermorgant and summer signing Callum Wilson are set to continue their partnership up front, with Baily Cargill likely to deputise for defender Elliott Ward.
Last season: Bournemouth 2 Huddersfield 1, Huddersfield 5 Bournemouth 1
Last five league matches: Huddersfield L D W L W; Bournemouth D L D W L
Referee: Scott Duncan (Tyne & Wear)
Mick McCarthy will be without Cameron Stewart (fractured jaw) for the season opener against Fulham. Midfielder Stephen Hunt is also sidelined, while Jonathan Parr, Tommy Smith and Paul Anderson are slight doubts, but David McGoldrick has recovered from a knee ligament damage.
Fulham boss Felix Magath could hand a debut to Ross McCormack, while fellow new arrivals Tim Hoogland, Kay Voser, Thomas Eisfeld and Konstantinos Stafylidis will also hope to be involved.
Last season: No corresponding fixture
Last five league matches: Ipswich W L D L W; Fulham W L D L D
Referee: Stephen Martin (Staffordshire)
Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka could hand debuts to summer signings Kike, James Husband and Emilio Nsue against Birmingham. Karanka also has the option of starting with Kenneth Omeruo, who the club re-signed this week on a season-long loan deal from Chelsea. But long-term absentees Rhys Williams and Muzzy Carayol, plus Emmanuel Ledesma will play no part.
Birmingham boss Lee Clark has a near fully-fit squad to choose from, with only Matt Green receiving treatment at the moment. Among the new recruits looking to make their debuts are Denny Johnstone, David Edgar, Stephen Gleeson, Wes Thomas, Navid Nasseri, Mark Duffy, David Cotterill and Clayton Donaldson. Defender Gavin Cunning will be joined at the back by Jonathan Grounds, with Grant Hall, on-loan from Tottenham, up front.
Last season: Middlesbrough 3 Birmingham 1, Birmingham 2 Middlesbrough 2
Last five league matches: Middlesbrough W L L W W; Birmingham L L L L D
Referee: Graham Salisbury (Lancashire)
Millwall boss Ian Holloway is expected to hand a debut to striker Lee Gregory when his side host Leeds on the opening day of the Sky Bet Championship season. Nicky Bailey (calf), Ed Upson and Richard Chaplow (both hamstring) are all doubts. Ricardo Fuller and Magaye Gueye are among five new summer signings who could be handed debuts.
Leeds will be without winger Aidy White (ankle) and young prospect Lewis Walters (knee surgery) for first-team coach Dave Hockaday's first competitive game in charge. Striker Noel Hunt has been struggling with hamstring trouble, but latest signing Nicky Ajose is hoping to make his debut and goalkeeper Marco Silvestri, defender Gaetano Berardi and striker Souleymane Doukara are all in contention to make their first competitive appearances for the club.
Last season: Leeds 2 Millwall 1, Millwall 2 Leeds 0
Last five league matches: Millwall D W D D W; Leeds W W L W D
Referee: Oliver Langford
Stuart Pearce will be without the injured Jamaal Lascelles for his first game in charge of Nottingham Forest against Blackpool at the City Ground, while fellow centre-back Jack Hobbs (ankle), full-back Eric Lichaj (hernia) and Chris Cohen (knee) are still sidelined. Summer signings Danny Fox, Matty Fryatt, Lars Veldwijk, Louis Laing, Roger Riera, Jack Hunt, Michael Mancienne, Chris Burke, Britt Assombalonga and Michail Antonio will all hope to make their debuts.
Blackpool's new-look side will get its first outing as Jose Riga's hastily put-together squad begins the season after a summer of turmoil. New signings Joe Lewis, Ishmael Miller, John Lundstram, Joan Oriol and Jose Miguel Cubero are yet to feature in either of Blackpool's two pre-season friendlies so rustiness is to be expected. Striker Bobby Grant did appear in the win over Penrith, though, after being out since March with a knee injury.
Last season: Blackpool 1 Nottm Forest 1, Nottm Forest 0 Blackpool 1
Last five league matches: Nottm Forest L W W L L; Blackpool L L D W L
Referee: Tony Harrington (Cleveland)
Watford boss Giuseppe Sannino will be without Craig Cathcart (knee) and Sean Murray (ankle) when they host Bolton. Matej Vydra is in line to make his second debut for the club having rejoined on loan from Udinese but it remains to be seen how involved fellow striker Troy Deeney will be after courting interest from a number of Barclays Premier League clubs. Summer loan recruit Keith Andrews is ineligible to play against his parent club.
Midfielder Mark Davies (toe) looks set to miss Bolton's trip to Vicarage Road. However, Darren Pratley could feature after appearing in the summer friendlies following a shoulder problem which has kept him sidelined from competitive football since February.
Last season: Bolton 2 Watford 0, Watford 0 Bolton 1
Last five league matches: Watford W L L L L; Bolton W D L W D
Referee: Carl Boyeson
Wigan will start the season against Reading with long-term injury absentees Ben Watson and Chris McCann still unavailable to Uwe Rosler. James McClean (ankle) is also still out, but striker Grant Holt is back after a loan spell at Aston Villa.
Reading boss Nigel Adkins has a whole host of injury problems to contend with. Hal Robson-Kanu (knee) has joined Danny Guthrie (calf), Garath McCleary (back) and Danny Williams (knee) on the treatment table, while newly installed club-captain Jem Karacan (cruciate) will miss the start of the season as he continues his lengthy recovery.
Last season: Wigan 3 Reading 0, Reading 1 Wigan 2
Last five league matches: Wigan W L L W L; Reading D L W W D
Referee: Mark Brown (East Yorkshire)
Sunday, August 10
Wolves manager Kenny Jackett will not be able to call upon new signing Tommy Rowe for his side's opener against Norwich at Molineux as he recovers from a hairline fracture of his metatarsal. Bakary Sako (groin), Leon Clarke (back) and Jack Price (Achilles) are other players battling back from knocks.
Norwich manager Neil Adams is expected to hand debuts to summer signings Lewis Grabban and Kyle Lafferty when they begin life back in the Championship, but another new capture, midfielder Gary O'Neil, will miss out due to suspension. Leroy Fer is not included in the squad as he is on his own conditioning programme and Jonny Howson (knee) is also absent. Gary Hooper is a doubt with a calf problem, but Alex Tettey is fit after a thigh problem.
Last season: No corresponding fixture
Last five league matches: Wolverhampton W W W D W; Norwich L L L D L
Referee: Simon Hooper (Wiltshire)