The 2023/24 EFL season is all set to begin on Friday night, with Sheffield Wednesday welcoming Southampton in the Championship.
Just a season ago, these two teams were separated by two divisions.
However, they are set to meet on tonight, following the Owls’ promotion from League One and the Saints’ drop from the Premier League.
What is the prediction for the match?
Southampton should win this one, but we fancy both teams to find the net. Back Southampton win and both teams to score at 3/1.
Newly appointed managers will also make their competitive debut, with Xisco Munoz in charge of the home side and Russell Martin stepping in for Ruben Selles at Southampton.
Sheff Wed vs Southampton Match Preview
Sheffield Wednesday’s journey in the 2022/23 season was nothing short of a roller coaster ride.
The Owls stood 3rd in League One, securing 96 points, which, in any of the previous 10 seasons, would have guaranteed automatic promotion.
Plymouth Argyle and Ipswich Town’s outstanding performances pushed them into the playoffs.
After a 4-0 defeat against Peterborough United in the first playoff leg, the Owls’ promotion dreams seemed over.
Nevertheless, a commendable comeback in the second leg saw them overcoming the deficit and emerging victorious on penalties.
The Owls grabbed a thrilling victory against Yorkshire rivals Barnsley in the final seconds of extra time, thanks to a decisive header by Josh Windass.
The euphoria of promotion was short-lived as they faced the abrupt dismissal of manager Darren Moore.
The challenge ahead for new manager Xisco Munoz is not only to sustain the team’s momentum in the higher division but also to kickstart his tenure with a victory against Southampton on Friday, which would indeed mark a powerful intent.
Southampton, on the other hand, had a disastrous 2022/23 season, finishing at the bottom in the top flight with 25 points.
The team had an equal number of losses in their 38 games, having scored just 36 goals and conceding 73.
The Saints’ faithful pin their hopes on new manager Russell Martin, known for his preference for a possession-based style of play.
Their preparation for the new season has been affected by the intense speculation surrounding their key midfielders Romeo Lavia and captain James Ward-Prowse. Liverpool and West Ham United had their bids rejected for these players, while full back Tino Livramento is on the verge of joining Newcastle United.
Amid last season’s disappointments, the Saints aim to start the new campaign on a positive note by claiming three points at Hillsborough on Friday night.
Dominic Iorfa and Michael Ihiekwe are expected to form part of the starting back four, while midfield could see the influential Barry Bannan, alongside George Byers and Will Vaulks.
The man of the previous playoff triumph, Josh Windass, is likely to spearhead the attack, possibly joined by Delgado, Marvin Johnson, or Mallik Wilks.
In the Southampton camp, despite the speculation surrounding Lavia and Ward-Prowse, both are expected to start on Friday. Jack Stephens could potentially take the centre half spot following the exit of Mohamed Salisu and Duje Caleta-Car.
The attack is likely to be led by Charly Alcaraz and Nathan Tella, with Will Smallbone and Che Adams as their partners.
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