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Stoke vs Rotherham

Calendar 5th August
Football icon kick off 15:00
Football icon Stoke to win
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Stoke have gone about their business relatively quietly this summer, but they’re a side that can’t be taken lightly this season.

Manager Alex Neil has built a really solid squad with some very shrewd signings. Mark Travers returns on loan from Bournemouth, whilst the likes of Enda Stevens, Daniel Johnson, and Michael Rose all join on a free and bring a wealth of Championship experience.

That doesn’t even cover their business in the forward areas, which sees former Villa frontman Wesley joined by Ferencvaros’ Ryan Mmaee, both of whom have European pedigree.

It’s impressive business, and should only help to improve a side that finished 16th last season.

As for Rotherham, manager Matt Taylor certainly has his work cut out. A 19th placed finish last campaign could well be a struggle to match given their departures.

The clubs two top scorers from last season in Chiedozie Ogbene and Conor Washington have both left for free, with Villa youth product Andre Green the only incoming forward.

Throw in the loss of captain Richard Wood and defensive mainstay Wes Harding, and you’re left with a side that many see as favourites for the drop.

Stoke should have too much here, and I expect a win on home soil in their league opener.

Bolton vs Lincoln City

Calendar 5th August
Football icon kick off 15:00
Football icon Bolton to win
Arrow down

Many people’s title favourites should start as they mean to go on, against a Lincoln side who will be much more likely to be looking over their shoulder this season than challenging for anything meaningful.

Ian Evatt is a tremendous coach, arguably the best in the division. Bolton are well drilled, organised and effective. At one stage last season, they went 9 game without conceding a home goal. They dominate the ball and make it incredibly hard for opponents to get a sniff at goal.

They’ve added well in the market to replace some key loanees from last season, including James Trafford.

Lincoln are expected to be a very middle of the road side this season. They had a plethora of loan signings last season, who’ve returned to their parent clubs or sought new loans elsewhere. Additions have been limited, and underwhelming.

Bolton will be targeting automatic promotion this season at the very least. They beat Lincoln 2-0 here last season, and 3-1 the season prior.

Crawley vs Bradford

Calendar 5th August
Football icon kick off 15:00
Football icon Bradford to win or draw
Arrow down

I can’t see anything but a positive result for Bradford here. The fact that they’re at evens here is shocking when you take Crawley’s situation into account. I’m playing safe with double chance.

Poor decision after poor decision has left Crawley in an awful spot.

They’ve let go of a wealth of experience, as well as the limited quality that they had.

Six of their nine signings this summer are making the step up from non league, with four of those players stepping up at least two divisions. They truly are relegation fodder.

The final twist of the dagger was losing Ashley Nadesan, hardly surprising given the side were humiliated by Pompey in a 9-1 defeat.

As for Bradford, Mark Hughes and his squad will be hoping to go one better this season, after losing out to eventual playoff winners Carlisle in the semi finals.

An experienced manager, and a squad that’s already proven its worth at this level. With Crawley in the state they’re in, the promotion hopefuls should take full advantage on opening day.

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