In barely any time at all, the Football League season is upon us again with the return of the Carabao Cup on Saturday afternoon.
It seems strange that the League Cup will be in full flow a whole two weeks before the start of the league season, but these are the times that we live in.
Football league clubs must return to action barely a month after they last kicked a ball and with barely any pre-season under their belts, not to mention the fact that a turbulent transfer window is still ongoing.
It makes for a tricky set of fixtures to predict and, without further ado, here are our four picks to guide you through Saturday’s games.
Blackburn finished last season with a patchy run of form that saw them concede a shedload of goals.
They have since enjoyed a decent pre-season, winning both of their games against League One opposition, and will fancy their chances of repeating the feat against Doncaster this Saturday.
Doncaster have lost top scorer Kieran Sadlier during the transfer window and, if anything, a worse team than the side that finished ninth in League One last season.
They did, however, manage a draw at Derby during recently, but it’s hard to see them coming away with anything from Ewood Park on Saturday.
Preston will be itching to make amends for their shocking run of form after the restart last season that saw them drop out of play-off contention in the blink of an eye. What better way to kickstart their campaign than by taking on lowly Mansfield at Deepdale?
The League Two side found themselves uncomfortably close to the bottom of the Football League last term and will have little hope of causing an upset on Saturday afternoon.
Preston have yet to sign anyone during the transfer window, but their squad looked strong last season and they should be rejuvenated following the month-long break.
This should resemble a stroll in the park for the Championship side.
Stoke showed very encouraging signs towards the tail end of last season, not least when they extinguished Brentford’s automatic promotion hopes and Nottingham Forest’s play-off dreams in successive game weeks.
They will now look to build on that encouraging season finale and avoid the catastrophic start to last season that made such an improvement necessary in the first place.
The Potters are undoubtedly heading in the right direction, as are opponents Blackpool who have solidified their status in League One following some particularly turbulent years in the mid-2010s.
They will hope to push for a top-six finish this season, but will struggle to kickstart their season against Stoke on Saturday.
Portsmouth suffered play-off semi-final heartbreak for the second season running just over a month ago and it will be interesting to see how much that result impacts them going into the new season.
The wound has been festering for the best part of six weeks now and it will be difficult for Pompey to pick themselves off the floor. They could hardly ask for better opposition to do it against, however.
Stevenage avoided relegation from the Football League by the narrowest of margins last season, finishing three points ahead of Macclesfield on points-per-game.
But while Portsmouth’s play-off heartbreak has lingered over Fratton Park all summer, Stevenage’s lucky escape will have lifted spirits over the past few months and they should approach this game as a free hit with nothing to lose.
Portsmouth may eventually prevail, but Stevenage could take them to penalties.
- An acca on these four best bets pays at approximately 10/1 with Paddy Power. Odds are subject to change.
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