The 2022/23 Championship campaign finally gets underway – albeit in an unusual July slot – as last season’s play-off finalists Huddersfield Town host relegated Burnley.
After the departure of head coach Carlos Corberan, as well as key figures from last season’s play-off push Harry Toffolo and Lewis O’Brien, Huddersfield present a bit of an unknown going into the new campaign, and few are expecting a repeat of last season’s third-placed finish.
Their campaign was built on the back of a strong rearguard, keeping 20 clean sheets (only bettered by Bournemouth’s 21), and fans will be hoping that Danny Schofield represents something of a continuity appointment, having served under Corberan.
Lee Nicholls, the division’s best keeper last year, will be crucial to any success the Terriers have in 2023, as will the goals of Danny Ward, after his career-best haul of 14 last term.
Burnley, meanwhile, present even more of an unknown.
The Clarets lost Nick Pope, Ben Mee and James Tarkowski, and after 10 years, Sean Dyche was sacked in April, with Mike Jackson unable to keep the Turf Moor side up.
Vincent Kompany was installed as the new manager in the summer, and presents a total 180 in terms of tactics and style, with the Belgian looking for a more patient, possession-based approach. The former Manchester City skipper is an intriguing appointment if nothing else, and we really could see anything in East Lancashire this season.
Anjorin impressed with his handful of cameo performances off the bench towards the end of the campaign, and he’s back at the John Smith’s Stadium in better shape; I’m excited to see what he can produce whether from the left or advanced central areas.
Either way, the 20-year-old, who is more than likely on penalty duty, is my pick to take Over 1.5 Shots.
Huddersfield were often happy to cede possession against the big sides last season, with no more than 32% of the ball in away wins at Sheffield United, Fulham and Middlesbrough, but Terriers fans may expect a bit more initiative from their side at home.
But Kompany will want his players to dominate the ball from the off, and if they can nab an early goal, we may see a more open game.
Though Over 2 Goals landed in only 40% of Huddersfield’s games in front of their home fans last season – with their defence largely to thank for that – my second selection is Over 2 Goals.
Finally, James Linnington will take charge on Friday night, and having averaged just under five cards per game in the Championship last season, as well as showing six reds in the final three months, I’m going for Over 4 Cards in the EFL curtain raiser.
Tino Anjorin Over 1.5 Shots – 13/8
Over 2 Goals in the match – 13/8
Over 4 Cards in the match – 10/11
Bet Builder boosted from 17/2 to 12/1.
By Steve Freeth