Nottingham Forest vs West BromEnglish Championship, KO: 17:30 Aug 3, 2019, The City Ground
MARTIN O'NEILL and Roy Keane were supposed to be the managerial dream team who would restore Nottingham Forest to the top flight.
But the return of two former greats to the City Ground lasted just six months as player power forced the board to pull the trigger.
Forest sat eighth in the table when O'Neill took the reins from Aitor Karanka back in January and hopes were high for a play-off push, especially when Keane agreed to become assistant manager.
That failed to materialise, with Forest eventually finishing ninth, but it was off-field problems that eventually led to O'Neill's sacking, with some players complaining about his style of management to the board.
Frenchman Sabri Lamouchi was quickly named as his successor, becoming Forest's 17th manager in the last decade.
How long Lamouchi lasts under trigger-happy owner Evangelos Marinakis remains to be seen, especially as the Greek businessman recently claimed he is “obliged” to make a change if things aren't working. So you could do worse than back the 25/1 Unibet offer on him being the next Championship manager to be axed.
While Karanka was given plenty of cash to splash last summer – investing £25m on Joao Carvalho, Lewis Grabban, El Arbi Hillel Soudani and Tobias Figueiredo – Lamouchi has thus far been forced to settle for free transfers and loans.
Most of the shopping has been done in Portugal, with the likes of Alfa Semedo,
Tiago Silva and Yuri Ribeiro coming in, and the only new arrivals with Championship experience are Albert Adomah and Sammy Amoebi.
But Lamouchi could bring in more new faces before deadline day, especially after defender Tendayi Darikwa picked up a knee injury that will sideline him for months.
It doesn't bode well for a successful season and the fixture computer has handed Forest a tough start, with West Brom heading to the City Ground.
Darren Moore was harshly sacked towards the end of last term with the Baggies in the play-off places. Caretaker Jimmy Shan kept them on track but they fell in the play-off semis to Midlands rivals Aston Villa.
West Brom made a big-name appointment in the summer by bringing in former Croatia and West Ham boss Slaven Bilic.
In contrast to Forest, the Baggies have done most of their shopping in the Championship, landing Kenneth Zohore from Cardiff, Romaine Sawyers from Brentford and Darnell Furlong from QPR, with Semi Ajayi also recruited from League One Rotherham.
Filip Krovinovic has also been brought in on loan from Benfica and Bilic is tipping his fellow Croat for a big season.
West Brom have also lost some key players in the shape of Jay Rodriguez and Craig Dawson but Bilic did manage to persuade talented midfielder Rekeem Harper to sign a new deal when it looked like he might join Celtic on a Bosman.
The new boss also has £14million winger Oliver Burke back after a loan stint at Parkhead that showed glimpses of promise but was ultimately underwhelming. It will be interesting to see if Bilic can get a tune out of a player who has all the attributes to reach the top but sometimes has the first touch of a pub footballer.
I fancy West Brom to reach the play-offs at least this season and they look good value for a win on the opening day at 85/40 with Marathonbet.
Both teams will be fired up on the opening day and that lends value to the 7/5 William Hill offer on over one card for each side.
In addition to bookings, I'm hoping we will see a few goals. West Brom were free-scoring last season, drawing a blank just seven times in the entire league campaign, so it's no surprise to see them as short as 1/3 to score here. But you can get more value by backing over 2.5 match goals at 10/11 with Bet365.
Picking who will score those goals could be a bit tricky as both teams are under new management and it's unclear what teams they will field. But Krovinovic could be a good option for an anytime Baggies scorer at 4/1 with Paddy Power while Joe Lolley, Forest's player of the year last term, appeals at 12/5 with Ladbrokes.
This English Championship match between Nottingham Forest and West Brom will be played on Aug 3, 2019 and kick off at 17:30