Brighton v Nottingham Forest
Friday 7 August
Live on Sky Sports 5
Albion reached the play-offs in 2013 and there was an assumption they would feature at the right end of the table again last season but instead they were involved in the relegation battle after the gamble of appointing Sammi Hyypia as manager backfired. Chris Hughton kept them in the second tier comfortably enough in the end but his side showed little to suggest that this season will be much more than another case of keeping their heads above water.
The main issue was goalscoring - Albion managed just two in their last nine games. To try and address this they have signed promising under-19 Scottish international Jack Harper from Real Madrid and Israeli international Timer Hemed from Almeira before unveiling former star Bobby Zamora on a one-year deal on Monday night. Hughton will need his side to improve on last season's tally of just six home wins - fewer than all bar the three relegated sides and Sheffield Wednesday.
Even with the addition of Zamora, a big boost admittedly, I still think they are overpriced in the relegation market and expect them to finish below the likes of Charlton, Leeds and Reading who are all shorter than the Seasiders' 7.87/1 to end up in the bottom three.
Forest fell away from the play-off race after Christmas last season - much like 12 months earlier - and Dougie Freedman will be expected to deliver a concerted challenge for the top six this time round, despite the FFL rules limiting him to free transfers and loans in the transfer market this summer. One of those free signings was Jamie Ward, the right-sided attacker from Derby, while another, Matt Mills, has impressed the City Ground faithful in pre-season with his no-nonsense old Skool approach and looks set to partner Jack Hobbs in the heart of the visitors' defence here.
They have also held onto winger Michail Antonio, who scored 14 times last season, despite reported interest from Aston Villa. More good news is that midfield talisman Andy Reid is finally on the comeback trail from his long-term groin injury and but star striker Britt Assombalonga is out until the New Year. His return will be like a new signing in the January window though and I think Forest are a side worthy of consideration in the promotion pack along with the others picked out in this excellent Championship preview from my colleague Mike Norman.
The home side have been priced up as 2.3211/8 favourites here which immediately grabs my attention as that is somewhat shorter than I would have them. Forest can be backed at 3.259/4, while the draw is 3.45. I can't see why Brighton are expected to win this one given their poor end to last season and the lack of quality brought in over the summer. In Antonio and Henri Lansbury, the visitors will have the best attacking players on the pitch and they can cause plenty of problems for the home defence.
Forest have a good record at the Amex, not having lost in their last three visits, and I fully expect them to return home with something from this game. They are an attractive 2.546/4 in the draw no bet market - I'm going to take the insurance of that (we get our stake back if things end up level) as my main bet here and am confident it will get my season off to a good start, along with the Tricky Trees'.
Having said that goalscoring is the home side's clear weakness it may be that Forest also suffer from the absence of Assombalonga. It wouldn't surprise me if Freedman spends a few post-match press conferences bemoaning the inability to put away chances created by his talented midfield and widemen. To that end let's have a saver on the 1-1 draw at 7.26/1 which is often a popular scoreline in the first game of the season - particularly for visiting sides who then face two home games in week thanks to the Championship's fixture structure.
Back Forest draw no bet at 2.546/4 *best bet
Back 1-1 in the correct score market at 7.26/1