Luton Town vs MiddlesbroughEnglish Championship, KO: 19:45 Aug 2, 2019, Kenilworth Road
THE omens couldn't be better for Luton Town as they prepare to play their first game in the Championship for 12 years.
Middlesbrough are the visitors to Kenilworth Road and when they last came calling on league duty back in 1994 the Hatters dished out a 5-1 hiding.
Luton also crushed Yeovil 8-2 in 2017 when they last started a campaign at home, setting off the remarkable run that led to back-to-back promotions.
Throw in the fact that they are currently on a 27-game unbeaten league run in their own back yard – and that Middlesbrough have won just two of their last 18 openers – and it's easy to see why Hatters fans will fancy their chances.
Ye the bookies don't think they are favourites to see off Boro, with Marathonbet pricing a Luton win at 48/25. That's probably down to the step up in class in the Championship and it's incredible to think that just six years ago Luton were starting the campaign in non-league football.
It was John Still who took them back to the Football League then Nathan Jones led the Hatters out of League Two before jumping ship to Stoke in January.
Caretaker Mick Harford continued Jones' good work by steering them to League One title glory but has since moved upstairs with Graeme Jones taking over.
That appointment is a bit of a gamble, with Jones stepping up as a manager for the first time after spending most of his career as an assistant.
Last summer he was helping Roberto Martinez prepare for Belgium's World Cup semi-final with France but now Jones is plotting how to keep Luton on the up after a fairytale rise.
He's no rookie when it comes to the Championship, however, having worked under Martinez at Swansea and Darren Moore at West Brom just last season.
Middlesbrough also have a first-time boss in the dugout in the shape of former England defender Jonathan Woodgate.
He worked as an assistant under former boss Tony Pulis but has much less experience than Jones as it's just three years since he retired as a player.
Woodgate has vowed to play more expansive football, which will come as music to the ears of fans who grew fed-up with Pulis' route-one approach last term.
But changing style can take a bit of time and that makes me think Luton might get the win they crave, even though they could alter their approach under Jones too. If you want to play it a little safer, Luton are 107/100 in the draw no bet market.
Woodgate is hoping skipper George Friend and keeper Darren Randolph are fit to feature and it will be a blow if either fails to make it. Youngster Dael Fry will sit it out with a hamstring injury.
The Hatters miss defender Alan Sheehan through injury and that adds to their problems at the back after selling James Justin to Leicester and Jack Storey to Bournemouth.
Those deals swelled the club's coffers by over £10million but Jones has thus far invested just £1.5m on Rijeka keeper Simon Sluga.
However, he has made some shrewd free signings, including Wigan winger Callum McManaman and Everton full-back Brendan Galloway, while the rest of last season's main men remain at the club.
James Collins was their top gun last term, netting 25 times, and that surprised me as the Irishman was far from impressive during his short spell at Hibs.
But it's often all about confidence with a striker and Collins will be buzzing after scooping the League One player of the year award. He's 15/8 with Ladbrokes for anytime scorer in their Championship opener and I like the look of that.
It has been a quiet summer for transfers at the Riverside with Woodgate so far only signing Marcus Browne, Tomas Mejias and Marc Bola after losing experienced stars such as Stewart Downing, Aden Flint and Jon-Obi Mikel.
He hopes to boost the squad further ahead of the August 8 deadline but it looks like Boro will have to rely on last season's stalwarts for the opener.
If you're looking to back a Middlesbrough anytime scorer then Britt Assombalonga seems the safest bet at 9/5 with Skybet. For a longer-odds option, new boy Browne is 9/2 with Bet365 after an impressive pre-season.
This English Championship match between Luton Town and Middlesbrough will be played on Aug 2, 2019 and kick off at 19:45