Football is back in this country this evening as the new league season kicks off with Luton Town and Middlesbrough going head-to-head in the Sky Bet Championship.
It’s been an intriguing pre-season and now the talking can stop and the playing can start; roll on the next nine months.
Here, then, we’re taking our six-pointer feature and applying it to the very first game of the new EFL campaign which kicks off at Kenilworth Road tonight.
It makes sense, then, to kick-off with Luton…
How’s Luton’s summer been?
The back-to-back League One and Two champions needed reinforcements but have seen a number of key players in that run leave.
Jack Stacey and James Justin have both left the club and their runs from full-back will be missed but Premier League opportunities have proven too tough to turn down.
Brendan Galloway should soften the blow as he is a powerful runner whilst Martin Crainie provides good experience at this level.
Further forward, Callum McManaman and Kazenga Lua Lua should provide some thrust for the Hatters as they look to cement their place back in the second tier.
What about Boro’s?
With Jonathan Woodgate now in charge he’s wanted to make changes that reflect an expected switch to a more expansive style than under Tony Pulis.
The willingness to let Aden Flint leave reflects that with Dael Fry and Daniel Ayala set to be the partnership at the heart of the defence – though Fry is set to miss out tonight through injury.
Stewart Downing has left the club too, whilst Marcus Browne has arrived and he should be an exciting acquisition as well as Marc Bola, who impressed for Blackpool last time out.
What’s the potential story to this one?
It’s likely to be the new managers in the dugout that generate the headlines.
Graeme Jones gets his first go at being number one after earning an impressive CV and reputation as a coach at a very high level.
He’s shown a willingness to take on Luton’s diamond style in pre-season and could offer good continuity to an approach that has served them so well.
Don’t expect him to not change it if he thinks it isn’t working, though.
Woodgate, meanwhile, also steps into the dugout – flanked by the likes of Robbie Keane. The two former Premier League players have featured at the highest level on the grass but now they must step back and let their players do the work.
We’ll get an idea of just how attack-minded Boro now are after the departure of Tony Pulis.
Luton could hand out several debuts tonight, including record-signing Simon Sluga who has featured regularly in goal in pre-season.
In the opposite goal, Darren Randolph should be fit after picking up an injury in the middle of last month whilst George Friend is also in contention after only playing in one friendly.
Dael Fry is set to miss out, though, with Woodgate confirming he’s not going to be risked.
Ones to watch
Both Bola and Browne have already been mentioned but if they play they are absolutely ones to watch this evening for Boro.
Both are a nod to the route Woodgate wants to go down and should provide plenty of thrust and energy down the flanks from their respective roles.
For Luton, James Collins is certainly going to be an interesting story. He’s done in League Two, proved himself in League One, and now he gets the chance to show his talent in the Championship.
It’ll be tough, but he’ll back himself to get on the score-sheet plenty of times this season.
Kenilworth Road should be rocking tonight and that may help the Hatters get a result, though Middlesbrough are my tip as dark-horses for the play-offs this season. 1-1.