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Match Preview: Bolton v Leeds United

It’s the first game of the new season, and we look at it right here

Bolton Wanderers v Leeds United - The Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Here we are, then. 13 long and eventful weeks since Leeds United’s last competitive fixture sees us kicking off the new season. With Garry Monk gone, we can exorcise the demons of last season’s shocking capitulation that saw us drop out of the play-off positions we claimed for the majority of the season. Hopefully Thomas Christiansen is the Berocca to any potential hangover of last season.

With all the positive moves off the pitch, comes a raft of promising signings. After some teasing glimpses in pre-season, we can finally see what they’re made of in a competitive environment - Vernon Anita and Felix Wiedwald have proven quality, but only the most dedicated footballing anorak can claim to have a great knowledge of Samuel Sáiz’s performances at Huesca or Ezgjan Alioski at Lugano. Even Matthew Pennington only has seven senior appearances to his name at Everton, with loan spells at lower levels.

Bolton should offer an opportunity to see what they will offer going forward. But, for now at least, it looks like Christiansen is set to give continuity to the squad from last season. The solid showing in the last friendly of the summer, the 2-0 win over Oxford, gives as good indication as any of who will feature.

As a reminder, Pontus Jansson sat that out as the coach tested a back four without him, unable to feature as his suspension carries over from last season. Felix Wiedwald appears to be the first choice keeper, behind a centre-half partnership of Pennington and Cooper, with Berardi and Ayling as the fullbacks. From there, Alioski was the only new name to start against Oxford, and being given the number 10 shirt should be telling of his importance this season. After Pablo Hernandez’s lacklustre display, and another full week of training for Samu Saiz, the Spaniards may find themselves swapping positions on the bench and pitch come Sunday afternoon.

Bolton are an intriguing prospect, and Phil Parkinson has built an admirable and solid team there on limited means - the kind of achievement that saw him heavily tipped for our dugout. Their aim will be survival, and if ours really is Top Six, that means it’s the kind of team we need to be beating home and away. They do have some tricky players though - former Newcastle United winger Sammy Ameobi can be a handful on his day, and Adam Le Fondre appears to have re-found his shooting boots after a few dodgy spells since he left Reading.

The fixture list has been kind to us, with a run of winnable-looking matches throughout August and September, giving hope we can have a building a solid foundation at the start of the season. The opposite of the uphill struggle Monk faced after his disappointing start. Lest we forget, every point counts - and Lord, could Leeds have used some from August come the end of last season.

Having said that, these early August encounters should be taken with a pinch of salt. The performance and result against QPR of the 2016-2017 season was the antithesis of how that season went - let’s not lose our heads if this is similar.

Absentees

Pontus Jansson has a suspension carried over from last season. Otherwise, Thomas Christiansen has a full squad to choose from.

Bolton have no absentees - although winger Filipe Morais has returned to training but probably won’t feature today.

Other Notable Fixtures

Aston Villa vs Hull, Wolves vs Middlesbrough and Fulham vs Norwich on Saturday are all very intriguing. Six sides who will be aiming for promotion this season.

Head-to-head

Bolton’s stint in league one means it’s over a year since we’ve played them, and both squads have had significant overhaul in that period. Before that, Leeds were unbeaten in our last five fixtures, winning three and drawing two - though those both came at the Macron Stadium.

Form

In terms of competitive fixtures, Leeds stuttered to 3 draws and 2 defeats at the end of last season. Bolton stuttered a little bit come the end of last season, but did win their final two matches to secure automatic promotion.

WHAT

Bolton Wanderers vs. Leeds United

EFL Championship fixture

WHERE

Sky Sports, LUTV, BBC Radio Leeds, International Listings - http://www.livesoccertv.com/match/2505111/bolton-wanderers-vs-leeds-united/

WHEN

Sunday, August 6th, 2017

08:30am PT / 11:30am ET / 16:30pm BT

WHO

Bolton Wanderers predicted starting XI

Howard; Taylor, Dervite, Wheater, Beevers, Darby; Karacan, Vela, Pratley; Madine, Le Fondre

Leeds United’s predicted starting XI

Wiedwald; Ayling, Pennington, Cooper, Berardi; Vieira, O’Kane, Alioski, Saiz, Roofe; Wood

ODDS

Bolton - 2/1

Draw - 12/5

Leeds - 6/4

PREDICTION

Things looked to have clicked against Oxford, and another week on the training pitch should do our new signings good. I think it will be time before our performances become emphatic, and Bolton shouldn’t be underestimated. Nevertheless, we should have enough about us to do the job. 0-1, Chris Wood.