League football returns, as do the fans, as Swansea City visit Ewood Park in the first Championship fixture of Rovers’ season.
It’ll also be the first competitive match with a full capacity crowd allowed at Ewood in 525 days – ironically that was when Rovers faced Swansea back in February 2020, with the sides drawing thanks to Bradley Johnson’s late equaliser.
However, both sides are much different to when we last saw them in person. Rovers were looking like challengers for the play-offs last year, and now serious questions surround the future of Tony Mowbray, with the team aren’t expected to pull up any trees this season.
Eleven players leaving – with no replacements at the time of writing – sees the squad much weaker than last season, and the attention could turn to the academy to fill the gaps in the squad, temporarily at least.
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The likes of Jake Garrett, Connor McBride and Dan Butterworth all impressed over pre-season and they will be firmly in the manager’s plans.
On the other hand, Swansea have had back-to-back top-six finishes, but after two failed play-off attempts, Steve Cooper departed earlier this summer, with MK Dons manager Russell Martin the man chosen to take the hot seat.
The appointment has been met with optimism from the Swans supporters, but after losing Andre Ayew (released), Freddie Woodman and Marc Guehi (both returned to their parent clubs) in the summer, signings will be needed for the Welsh side.
Rovers’ Opening Day Woes
A common feature of Rovers’ opening day fixtures is disappointment – with the club not winning any of their first league matches of the season since Nikola Kalinic scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over Everton in 2010.
That run includes somewhat easier fixtures on paper – such as Southend in 2017 and Charlton in 2019 – and there could be no better time to end the winless run than the return of supporters.
Predicted XI: Kaminski, Nyambe, Lenihan, Carter, Pickering, Travis, Buckley, Rothwell, Dolan, Armstrong, Brereton
This really is a tough one to call. Swansea do have the better side, but it is always hard to tell how a team will perform under their new manager.
I’m going to go for – and perhaps pretty optimistically – Rovers to break their opening day curse.
Prediction: Rovers 2-1 Swansea City
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