Burton Albion start their second successive Championship campaign by welcoming Neil Warnock’s Cardiff City to the Pirelli Stadium.
The Brewers likely face a difficult season ahead, with many predicting them to go down. Unlike Burton, the visitors are fancied to finish mid-table with a play-off spot a possibility.
Last season, Albion avoided relegation by a single point whilst the Bluebirds finished 10th. However Cardiff’s respectable finish did not look likely at the start of last season.
In fact, this fixture last season was Paul Trollope’s last as Cardiff’s head coach. The Brewers won 2-0 which left the South Wales side in 23rd place with just 8 points from 11 games.
Almost a year on and Cardiff appear to have regained some spirit. A strong end to last season coupled with a good preseason has left Bluebirds fans optimistic for the season ahead.
For Burton, avoiding relegation last season was a great confidence boost and one to build on that this season. Plus, victory over Leicester City on Tuesday in their final friendly was the perfect way to enter the new season.
Both sides will be eager to make a positive start, and work out their strongest elevens.
As mentioned, Burton capped off their preseason with victory over Leicester but it wasn’t all plain sailing. The Brewers suffered defeats to Rochester, AFC Wimbledon, Shrewsbury and West Brom in July.
However, there were wins against non-league sides Kidsgrove Athletic, Middleover Sports, Solihull Moors and a 9-0 thrashing of Arnold Town. None of those will have been as valuable or morale boosting though as their 2-1 win against Leicester.
Cardiff won their first preseason game against Welsh Football League Division One side Taffs Well before travelling to Cornwall. There they brushed aside Tavistock and Bodmin Town before edging out Plymouth at home park.
Cardiff also tasted defeat at the hands of Shrewsbury, before they rounded off preseason with a 4-0 win against Livingston.
Burton have added a number of players to their squad this summer including Stephen Warnock, Jake Buxton and Hope Akpan. Those three are available to make their competitive debut.
Unfortunately for the Brewers, record signing Liam Boyce is set to miss the majority of the season. The striker, who signed from Ross County, ruptured an ACL during preseason.
Most of Cardiff’s summer signings are available with the exception of Callum Paterson and Lee Camp, who remains an doubt. Other signings Lee Tomlin, Danny Ward and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing will all be hoping to start the opener.
It’s hard to say what Clough and Warnock have made of the respective squads during preseason. Both sides fielded different teams for each game, the Bluebirds often changing the entire team at half time.
Neither side will be concerned by their upcoming EFL Cup games as both managers know a strong start in the league is far more valuable. As a result, you can expect to see what the manager’s believe to be the strongest side available to them.
Score Prediction: Burton Albion 0-1 Cardiff City
If Burton proved anything last season it was they’re not an easy side to break down. They didn’t play glamorous football but they picked up points, especially at home, where it counted.
The last time the Bluebirds travelling to the Pirelli Stadium, Trollope was hoping for a ‘Get out of jail free’ card, but instead he was shown the door. Warnock, a far more experienced manager, will expect no such thing.
That being said, Cardiff’s new recruit Lee Tomlin is a player who can find gaps others simply do not see. His vision is the perfect tool for Cardiff to get the best from Kenneth Zohore. The young Danish striker was one of the division’s most prolific goal scorers in the second half of last season and will be a handful for the Brewers’ defence.
If Burton’s defenders can keep Cardiff quiet, it’ll be up to Akins and Sordell at the other end. They too will face a tight Cardiff defence which many teams will struggle to break down this season.