For football fans, especially those that follow teams outside of the Premier League, then this weekend is without doubt one that they have been looking forward to ever since the season ended back in May. Although the Community Shield showpiece between Manchester City and Liverpool takes place at Wembley on Sunday, it is the start of the Football League Season that will have many fans excited at how their team will fare over the coming ten months.

The 72 teams in the Championship, League One and League Two will all start with clean slates and a total of 46 games to play over the course of the season. For some teams, it will be a battle to strive for the glory of promotion or a chance of promotion via the playoffs, for others it will be a battle against relegation. Some may just see their year fizzle out into mid-table obscurity.

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In this article, we are going to take a look at the three divisions and give you our predictions on how we see things going in each and who we are going to back to win the division, who stands a chance at promotion and/or the playoffs and who we feel will be battling the drop by the end of the year.

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Let’s now begin our look at the forthcoming season by taking a look at our tips for each of the three divisions in the football league, taking in who we think will be Champions, who will challenge for promotion and the playoffs and who we think will be battling the drop. We will also showcase the games in each division taking place on the opening weekend of the season.

All kick off times are 3pm on Saturday unless stated and any odds shown were correct at the time of writing with bet365 Sport, but may have changed since.

The Championship Season Preview

Champions, Promotions and Playoffs

The battle for promotion and the playoffs will see six teams involved at the end of the season, two promoted automatically with a third from the playoffs. I think this season we should see Stoke City bounce back after a disappointing campaign last year and I think Swansea City will be another ex-Premier League side to improve. I also see the likes of relegated teams Fulham, Huddersfield and Cardiff being thereabouts and Nottingham Forest and Hull should also go close. Leeds are the bookies favourites, but I feel they will probably make the playoffs again this season. My two tips for promotion are Fulham and Stoke City, with Leeds, Cardiff, Swansea and Hull earning playoff spots.

Relegation Battle

Finance is key in The Championship and the teams without it are the ones that tend to struggle. As such, I think the likes of Millwall, Wigan Athletic, Preston North End, Reading, QPR and Barnsley could all be amongst the strugglers this season. Teams with the benefit of Premier League parachute payments tend to be ok, but I feel QPR could be dragged into the battle at the bottom too. My three to go from this selection would be Millwall, Preston North End and Q.P.R.

Opening Fixtures

  • Luton Town v Middlesbrough (Fri, 7.45pm)
  • Barnsley v Fulham
  • Blackburn Rovers v Charlton Athletic
  • Brentford v Birmingham City
  • Millwall v Preston North End
  • Reading v Sheffield Wednesday
  • Stoke City v Queens Park Rangers
  • Swansea City v Hull City
  • Wigan Athletic v Cardiff City
  • Nottingham Forest v West Brom (5.30pm)
  • Bristol City v Leeds United (Sun, 4.30pm)
  • Huddersfield Town. V Derby County (Mon, 7.45pm)

League One Season Preview

Champions, Promotions and Playoffs

With two automatic promotion spots, plus four playoff places up for grabs, it will likely be another real close battle for these positions this season in League One. I think Sunderland and Portsmouth will once again be involved in the thick end of things and I feel that Ipswich Town will also be in amongst it. I fancy newly promoted Lincoln to push hard too and you can’t rule out Blackpool with their new owners having a positive impact at the club. Doncaster, MK Dons and Fleetwood Town could also be in amongst things at the end of the season. My tip for promotion however is Ipswich and Portsmouth, with Sunderland, MK Dons, Lincoln and Blackpool in the playoffs.

Relegation Battle

The League One relegation battle is the toughest in all the leagues as four teams go down, one more than any other league and two more than in League Two. I think cash strapped teams like Bury, Bolton (who also have a 12 point deduction) and Bristol Rovers may well struggle this season and I don’t think Coventry’s situation of having to play their home games at St Andrews in Birmingham helps them any. Southend, Gillingham Wycombe and Accrington Stanley could also be amongst those battling against the drop. If pushed, my four to go down would be Bury, Bristol Rovers, Bolton and Wycombe that go down.

Opening Fixtures

  • AFC Wimbledon v Rotherham United
  • Blackpool v Bristol Rovers
  • Burton Albion. V Ipswich Town
  • Bury v Milton Keynes Dons
  • Coventry City v Southend United
  • Doncaster Rovers v Gillingham
  • Lincoln City v Accrington Stanley
  • Peterborough United v Fleetwood Town
  • Shrewsbury Town v Portsmouth
  • Sunderland v Oxford United
  • Tranmere Rovers v Rochdale
  • Wycombe Wanderers v Bolton Wanderers

League Two Season Preview

Champions, Promotions and Playoffs

With three teams going up automatically, plys one from the playoffs, the top seven is where teams want to be come the end of the season and I feel the likes of Mansfield Town, Newport County, Plymouth Argyle, Exeter City, Forest Green Rovers, Oldham Athletic, Scunthorpe, Swindon, Carlisle United and Bradford City are the most likely to be involved in those battles. For me, I can see Bradford City, Forest Green and Newport County taking the promotion slots with Scunthorpe, Swindon, Carlisle and Exeter City in the playoffs.

Relegation Battle

With two teams dropping into the Vanarama league, I think it will be a tough season for the likes of Port Vale, Crawley Town, Macclesfield Town and Morecambe in particular. I also feel a couple of the relegated sides, such as Plymouth and Walsall, could also find it much tougher in League Two than they expected. Picking two from that group I’d say Morecambe and Crawley would be my choices for the drop.

Opening Fixtures

  • Salford City v Stevenage Borough (12.30pm)
  • Bradford City v Cambridge United
  • Carlisle United v Crawley Town
  • Colchester United v Port Vale
  • Crewe Alexandra v Plymouth Argyle
  • Exeter City v Macclesfield Town
  • Forest Green Rovers v Oldham Athletic
  • Leyton Orient v Cheltenham Town
  • Morecambe v Grimsby Town
  • Newport County v Mansfield Town
  • Northampton Town v Walsall
  • Scunthorpe United v Swindon Town