Sky Bet League One 2018/19 – your big season preview

The new Sky Bet League One season kicks off this weekend but which teams and players should you watch out for?

Sunderland – a Premier League team just 18 months ago – add plenty of intrigue and gloss to this year’s battle for promotion. Can they get moving back in the right direction? Defeated play-off semi-finalists Charlton carry plenty of hope under Lee Bowyer while Scunthorpe, Portsmouth and Peterborough all will be looking to develop from contenders to challengers after solid campaigns.

Meanwhile, new boys Coventry and Luton seem to carry expectations of potentially plotting a charge towards back-to-back promotions while it will be intriguing to see how Joey Barton gets on managing Fleetwood Town.

With the help of Sky Bet, we take a closer look at the potential promotion challengers, the players tipped to provide the firepower and the sides who could find themselves scrapping for survival…

Opening weekend fixtures (3pm unless stated)

  • Sunderland v Charlton (Live on Sky, 12:30)
  • Accrington v Gillingham
  • Barnsley v Oxford
  • Burton Albion v Rochdale
  • Coventry v Scunthorpe
  • Fleetwood v AFC Wimbledon
  • Peterborough v Bristol Rovers
  • Portsmouth v Luton
  • Shrewsbury v Bradford
  • Southend v Doncaster
  • Walsall v Plymouth
  • Wycombe v Blackpool

Title contenders

Sunderland dominate the betting with Sky Bet. They are 3/1 favourites to end the season as top dogs in what is their first venture into the third tier of English football for 30 years. New owner Stewart Donald has come in and, figuratively speaking, has taken a sledgehammer to the club. There’s a new manager, former St Mirren boss Jack Ross, huge changes in the playing staff and a promise to bring a disenfranchised fanbase back to the heart of the club.

Following back-to-back relegations, shifting a losing mentality may prove harder than the markets are predicting, which should provide an opportunity for plenty of teams to make a title challenge.

Barnsley (8/1 with Sky Bet) may be slipping under the radar due to the Sunderland story. The board have given an opportunity to German manager Daniel Stendel, who seems to be building a youthful side with a focus on playing a high-tempo attacking style.

Bowyer won a lot of plaudits when taking over at Charlton (12/1) last season and guided them into the play-offs. However, off the field issues still remain with Roland Duchatelet at the forefront and whether the club can remain stable looks tough to predict.

Peterborough (14/1) have been busy in the transfer market under Steve Evans, who has promised attacking football at the Posh this season while Kenny Jackett’s Portsmouth (16/1) are likely to build on a very promising first season back in the third tier.

Play-off hopefuls

For the first time since plummeting through the leagues, there isn’t much pressure on Luton (13/2 for promotion) this season, however, they should be able to continue their momentum after finishing runners-up in League Two. Manager Nathan Jones plays an attacking brand of football and talented strikers James Collins and Danny Hylton – the pair managed 43 goals between them last term – should be capable of making the step up in class.

Scunthorpe (4/1 for promotion) may have lost their key man Murray Wallace, who has moved to Millwall, but last season play-off semi-finalists still have the nucleus of the team that came so close to promotion. Nick Daws has been given the job on a full-time basis after impressing in a caretaker role.

The vastly experienced Chris Powell has got his feet firmly under the table at Southend (8/1 for promotion) after taking over halfway through last season while newly promoted Coventry (5/1 for promotion), who came up through the play-offs, have a crop of exciting youngsters that should take the step up to League One in their stride.

League One: Key transfers

  • Glenn Loovens: Sheffield Wednesday to Sunderland (free)
  • Cameron Borthwick-Jackson: Manchester United to Scunthorpe (loan)
  • Luke Hyam: Ipswich to Southend (free)
  • Ched Evans: Sheffield United to Fleetwood (free)
  • Jamie Mackie: QPR to Oxford (free)

Potential strugglers

Accrington (5/4 for relegation) were promoted to the third tier of English football for the first time in their history last season under John Coleman. With their budget restraints, the markets are expecting them to struggle to stay competitive.

The same could be said for newly promoted Wycombe (6/4 for relegation). The very talented Luke O’Nien has been snapped up by Sunderland while an over reliance on Adebayo Akinfenwa could become a problem.

Losing the play-off final usually means a season of struggle is unlikely to follow but Shrewsbury (7/1 for relegation) could be vulnerable after losing their impressive manager Paul Hurst to Ipswich and exceptional on-loan Manchester United goalkeeper Dean Henderson.

Top scorers

If Portsmouth are to have a successful campaign then it’s likely the evergreen Brett Pitman (8/1 for top goalscorer) will be finding the net on regular intervals. He’ll be keen on beating his 23-goal haul from last season.

The transfer saga surrounding Charlie Wyke (9/1) rumbles on but whether he plays for Bradford or Sunderland, who are reportedly keen on securing his services, he’s got the potential to tear up this division. Lyle Taylor (14/1), Hylton (16/1) and Tom Bradshaw (10/1) all also feature prominently in the market.

Who are you tipping to shine – and struggle – this season in Sky Bet League One? Post a comment below if you’re reading on or tweet us @SkyFootball.

Sky Bet odds correct at July 31 and subject to fluctuation.

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