It may seem just a few weeks ago that the World Cup Final was being contested, but believe it or not, after a hectic few weeks of transfer activity and a somewhat shorter build up than usual, the start of the new football season, in the UK at least, is already here.

While the Premier League will not kick off until next weekend (and keep your eyes peeled for our special preview of the big kick off next week), we will see the traditional curtain raiser to the new season as Manchester City, the Premier League Champions 2017-18, take on the FA Cup Winners Chelsea at Wembley in the Community Shield on Sunday 5th August.

The game kicks off at 3pm and will be shown live on BT Sport.

Alongside this clash of two Premier League titans, we will also witness the start of the Football League season with all teams in the Championship, Division One and Division Two getting their campaigns underway across the weekend.

We’re going to preview the Community Shield after we have brought you our preview and tips for the season ahead in the Football League.

Football League Opening Weekend Fixtures & Tips (all fixtures Sat 04 Aug 3pm unless stated)

The Championship

  • Reading v Derby County (Fri 3rd Aug – 8pm)
  • Birmingham City v Norwich City
  • Brentford v Rotherham United
  • Bristol City v Nottingham Forest
  • Ipswich Town v Blackburn Rovers
  • Millwall v Middlesbrough
  • Preston North End v Queens Park Rangers
  • West Brom v Bolton Wanderers
  • Wigan Athletic v Sheffield Wednesday
  • Sheffield United v Swansea City (Sat 4th Aug, 5.30pm)
  • Leeds United v Stoke City (Sun 5th Aug – 4.30pm)
  • Hull City v Aston Villa (Mon 6th Aug – 7.45pm)

Who will win the Championship?

The three relegated Premier League teams from last season, Stoke City, Swansea and West Brom will be looking to bounce back quickly and history shows that at least one, if not two teams should go close, although I feel that Stoke City are the best option here. I expect the Potters to go very well and I think the likes of Middlesbrough, Derby County and Sheffield Wednesday to push them hard.  However I think the bookies have this about right and at 6/1, Stoke City would be my tip to come up as Champions.

Who will claim the other promotion spot?

I expect a real battle behind Stoke and the team I think that will clinch the promotion spot behind them is Derby County, who are 5/1 to be promoted at the end of the season.

Who will enter the playoffs?

Following Stoke and Derby, I think the next four teams to contest the playoffs will be Middlesbrough, West Brom, Leeds United and Swansea City.

League One

  • Sunderland v Charlton Athletic (Sat 04 Aug, 12.30pm)
  • Accrington Stanley v Gillingham
  • Barnsley v Oxford United
  • Burton Albion v Rochdale
  • Coventry City v Scunthorpe United
  • Fleetwood Town v AFC Wimbledon
  • Peterborough United v Bristol Rovers
  • Portsmouth v Luton Town
  • Shrewsbury Town v Bradford City
  • Southend United v Doncaster Rovers
  • Walsall v Plymouth Argyle
  • Wycombe Wanderers v Blackpool

Who will win League One?

Sunderland are the big favourites to gain promotion from League One at the first attempt after successive relegations from the Premier League, but in truth, I think the faith the bookies are showing in a clearly divided club and squad may be misplaced.  Barnsley, of the relegated sides, I feel stand a better chance of coming back up but for me, I think the outstanding selection here is Portsmouth, who looked very good at times last season and I think at 14/1 look a very good bet.

Who will claim the other promotion spot?

As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, I fancy Barnsley to do well this season back in League One and I think they are a solid bet to finish runners up in the division and take the second direct promotion spot available.  The Tykes are currently 11/4 with Bet365 to be promoted at the end of the season.

Who will enter the playoffs?

I think Charlton are a very strong bet to qualify for the playoffs once again this season, while I also think Sunderland are a good choice here too. The other two teams are more difficult to pick but I was impressed with newly promoted Coventry last season and I think Plymouth Argyle are ones to watch too.

League Two

  • Bury v Yeovil Town
  • Cheltenham v Crawley Town
  • Crewe Alexandra v Morecambe
  • Exeter v Carlisle
  • Grimsby Town v Forest Green Rovers
  • Mansfield v Newport County
  • Northampton v Lincoln City
  • Notts County v Colchester
  • Oldham v MK Dons
  • Port Vale v Cambridge United
  • Stevenage v Tranmere Rovers
  • Swindon Town v Macclesfield Town

Who will win League Two?

League Two looks like being a very open division this season with no one team likely to run away with the league. Relegated MK Dons look favourites with the bookmakers , but my choice here is Lincoln City. After promotion from the Conference the year before, they reached the playoffs last season and they have a young and talented management team hungry for success. At 10/1, I think they are a very good choice to win League Two this season.

Who will claim the other promotion spot?

With two additional promotion spots available behind the top team I think this is as open a contest in any of the four professional leagues in England. I think Swindon Town at 11/4 are a solid option to earn a promotion spot, while Carlisle United are also worth a look at 5/1.

Who will enter the playoffs?

With four playoff spots up for grabs I think this could go down to the final weekend of the season to decide which four teams battle it out for promotion to League One. Notts County are my first pick here and I think Northampton are an equally good option. After that I think Oldham Athletic could well do enough to squeak into the playoffs and finally, loyalty dictates that Tranmere Rovers back in the Football League could sneak the fourth and final spot.

The Community Shield

Manchester City v Chelsea

Last season, Manchester City won both Premier League clashes between the teams by the same 1-0 scoreline on their way to Premier League victory but Chelsea will be desperate to get the new season off to a better start at Wembley in the traditional opening game of the season in the top flight.

Both teams will have had their preparations somewhat upset by the late finish of this summer’s World Cup which has left the managers with a little over three weeks between the World Cup Final and this opening match of the season. As such, key World Cup performers for both sides may not yet be 100% ready for this game, and it will be interesting to see how both managers approach the game.

Current Odds – Match Result Market

  • Chelsea to win – 12/5
  • Man City to win – 21/20
  • Draw – 5/2

Personally, I feel that with all that has gone on over the preseason and over the end of last season at Chelsea, Manchester City must start this game as big favourites and I think they’ll be the team lifting the trophy at the end of 90 minutes.