Two teams fancied for promotion meet in the Championship on Sunday, as Sunderland host Ipswich Town at the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland made the playoffs last season, eventually falling short against Luton Town across the two legs, while Ipswich earned their spot in the second tier and finished second behind Plymouth in League One.
Both teams have strengthened their squads ahead of a playoff push this season, and Sunday’s encounter will give us a good chance to see how far they have come after a busy summer.
Sunderland were one of the surprise packages in the Championship last season, and they are 7/5 to open the campaign with a victory. The draw is 23/10, while Ipswich are 15/8 to collect all three points on their return to the top flight.
Jobe Bellingham is likely to make his Sunderland debut on Sunday, but fellow summer arrival Nathan Bishop is expected to start from the bench.
Striker Ross Stewart is still on the sidelines, with the Black Cats ace still recovering from an Achilles injury.
A foot injury will keep Christian Walton out of Sunday’s fixture, with Vaclav Hladky set to fill the void.
Ipswich to win to nil @ 4/1
After finishing in the playoffs last season, Sunderland will hope to repeat that at the very least, but the Black Cats probably overachieved under Tony Mowbray. They have since lost loanees Amad Diallo and Joe Gelhardt, but they have kept hold of Jack Clarke for now.
Even though Sunderland’s Bradley Dack is proven at this level, he is not known for his goalscoring exploits, and Ipswich had the best defensive record in League One last season.
They only conceded 35 goals, and with Sunderland lacking firepower, the Tractor Boys can start the season with a bang, and a 2-0 scoreline looks good value at 14/1.
Conor Chaplin to score anytime @ 15/8
Striker Chaplin will be paramount to Ipswich’s success this season, and his 26 league goals helped Kieran McKenna’s side seal promotion.
Chaplin’s class in front of goal will be needed yet again, and if anyone is going to score for Ipswich, he will be at the front and centre of most of their play.
He has stayed injury-free during pre-season and, importantly, scored a couple of goals to keep his confidence levels high.
Chaplin’s 26 goals were the best returns of his career, suggesting he is coming into his peak ahead of a busy Championship campaign.
Sunderland kept two clean sheets in their final eight Championship matches last season, so Chaplin is set to face a defence known for its errors, and he can open his account in Ipswich’s opening fixture.