EFL WEEKEND: The EFL returns once again! Nine months of ecstasy, heartbreak and whatever in between awaits us, with all 72 teams eager to get their campaigns off to the best possible start. We preview on game from each of the three divisions below, alongside some of our recommended BETDAQ bets.
Blackburn Rovers v West Bromwich Albion – Saturday 15:00
We’ve got a promotion-hopeful clash to kick things off as West Brom travel to Ewood Park to face Blackburn, with both sides hoping to correct their slumps towards the end of last season. A run of eight winless matches saw Rovers drop out of the playoff places at the death last campaign, with a frantic victory at Millwall on the last day of the season not proving enough to muscle their way into the top six.
Finishing just two places behind Blackburn last term, West Brom will themselves harbour promotion hopes. With a full Carlos Corberan pre-season under their belt, the Baggies look poised to challenge at the business end of the table, but they’ll have to start better than they did last season when they picked up just a single victory from their opening 13 league games.
That torrid run included a 2-1 defeat at Ewood Park, and visiting this part of East Lancashire has historically been a difficult task for West Brom, who have won on just two of their last 13 visits. With that poor travelling record in mind, we’re backing the hosts at 2.92 to get their season off to an ideal start.
Charlton Athletic v Leyton Orient – Saturday 15:00
Charlton have been pretty steady in League One since suffering relegation from the Championship three seasons ago, with finishes of 7th, 13th and 10th suggesting they won’t be troubling either side of the table anytime soon. They were certainly a better side in the second half of last season, losing just one of their final six games at the Valley, scoring an impressive 16 goals in the process.
Leyton Orient are a new addition to League One this season and will likely have been preparing themselves for this division mentally for a while, having always looked likely to win the League Two title from around January onwards. The east Londoners weren’t at their devastating best towards the end of the last campaign after somewhat sleepwalking towards the title, but will be encouraged by their good away form which saw them lose just one of their last nine fixtures on the road, scoring in all but one of them.
This is the type of fixture Orient would like to get stuck into – facing a Charlton side that may lack a relative sense of impetus to kickstart their season, but we’re likewise conscious of the Addicks’ strong record at home. As such, we’re backing the draw at 3.5.
Doncaster v Harrogate Town – Saturday 15:00
Whilst it was tempting to start with Wrexham against MK Dons, we thought this Yorkshire derby would offer some better value. Doncaster finished a disappointing 18th upon their first season back in League Two, but will be buoyed by the return of manager Grant McCann, who led Rovers to sixth in the same division in the 2018/19 season – their highest finish across the English football pyramid since appearing in the Championship in the 2013/14 season.
Harrogate finished on almost identical figures to their previous season in League Two, ending in the same place (19th) and finishing with just a point less (53/52). It would be harsh to expect much more from Simon Weaver’s men, who only earned promotion from the National League in 2020, and they will be encouraged by the way they turned their season round last time out, losing just one of their last ten games after looking like serious contenders for relegation before the World Cup.
Doncaster, by contrast, had a torrid end to their season, losing 11 of their last 16 fixtures, and will be wary of their fired-up opponents on Saturday. Despite that, the home side arguably have the better squad and will have benefitted from the off-season break, so we’re backing the hosts at 2.3 to begin their campaign with a win.