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League One - Football: Season preview

The 2022/23 League One season gets underway on Saturday, but which teams will be challenging for promotion and which will be battling for survival?

Last season proved one of the most competitive League One campaigns in recent memory, as the title, automatic promotion positions, playoff places and the final relegation spot were all decided on the final day.

In a notoriously competitive division, it could be a similar scenario this term and we have taken a look at the runners and riders, as we preview the campaign ahead of the big kick-off this weekend.

What:League One
When:30th July 2022-6th-7th May 2023
How to watch:Sky Sports
Odds:Sheff Wed 9/2, Ipswich 5/1, Derby 7/1, Peterborough 10/1, Portsmouth 14/1 

Owls and Tractor Boys look a cut above

Sheffield Wednesday were unable to secure an immediate return to the Championship last season, as they missed out in the playoffs to Sunderland, but Darren Moore's side should prove stronger for that experience.

The Owls have made some impressive signings over the summer, notably Michael Smith and Michael Ihiekwe, who both helped Rotherham to promotion from the third tier last season.

Wales international Will Vaulks has also joined from Cardiff and Wednesday could prove the team to beat in League One this season - they are priced at 9/2 to win the title and 6/4 to be promoted.

Ipswich are perhaps the team best placed to challenge the Owls for supremacy, with the Tractor Boys having steadied the ship following Kieran McKenna's appointment as manager midway through last season.

The former Manchester United assistant has lost just four of his 23 games in charge, with much of that success being built on a strong defence, while the summer arrivals of forwards Freddie Ladapo and Tyreece John-Jules should bolster their options in the final third.

The Tractor Boys are priced at 5/1 to win the title and 13/8 to secure a return to the Championship for the first time since 2019.

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Relegated trio face an uphill battle for promotion

Normally, the teams relegated from the Championship are among the favourites to bounce back at the first attempt, but Derby, Peterborough and Barnsley may face a battle to merely contend for the playoffs.

Derby are 9/4 to be promoted and their future does look a lot brighter than it did just a few weeks ago, with their long-protracted takeover having now been completed.

However, interim boss Liam Rosenior has been forced to throw together a squad as a result of the takeover uncertainty and although he has added plenty of experience, a top-six finish at 10/11 could be the best the Rams can hope for.

It is a similar story for Barnsley, who have cleared the decks after winning just six of 46 league matches last season.

Michael Duff is the new man in charge at Oakwell and the former Cheltenham boss has a proven track record, but the Tykes are 13/8 to finish in the top six.

Unlike the other two relegated clubs, Peterborough do have some continuity after sticking with boss Grant McCann, but most of their summer transfer business has come from the lower leagues and Posh are 7/2 to secure an instant return to the second tier.

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Plenty of playoff contenders

MK Dons missed out an automatic promotion on the final day of last season and Liam Manning's side should be there or thereabouts again this term - they can be backed at 9/2 to be promoted.

Wycombe beat the Dons in last season's playoff semi-finals before losing to Sunderland at Wembley, but the Chairboys could well have missed their best chance of returning to the Championship, as they are 5/1 to be promoted this term.

Plymouth fell just short in their playoff push last season despite accumulating 80 points, and a similar tally this time around should see the Pilgrims finish in the top six, which can be backed at 5/2.

Bolton's first season back in League One ended in a ninth-place finish and they will expect to kick-on this term under Ian Evatt.

The Trotters are 11/8 to finish in the top six, while Oxford at 7/4 and Portsmouth at 11/8 will also expect to challenge.

It would be no surprise to see any of those teams finish in the playoff places, but an outside bet for a top-six finish could be Bristol Rovers.

Joey Barton's side were promoted from League Two last season after ending the campaign strongly and they could take that momentum into the new season. The Gas are 11/2 to finish in the top six.

Tough season ahead for Cheltenham

Cheltenham consolidated in League One last season, finishing in 15th place, but the loss of boss Duff to Barnsley and the relative inexperience of his replacement, Wade Elliott, suggests the Robins, who are 13/8 to be relegated, could face a campaign of struggle.

Morecambe defied the odds to survive in the third tier last season and they will have to produce similar heroics this term if they are to avoid the drop.

Derek Adams' side are 1/1 to go down, while promoted trio Port Vale, Forest Green and Exeter could also be in the relegation mix.

Exeter appear the best equipped of that trio to survive after keeping the majority of their promotion squad together, but Forest Green are 11/4 to go down after losing head coach Rob Edwards and key players Kane Wilson and Ebou Adams over the summer.

Port Vale's promotion via the League Two playoffs was built on an attacking brand of football that could see them found out at a higher level. The Valiants are 2/1 to suffer relegation heartache

Smith to spearhead Wednesday's promotion push

Michael Smith struck 19 goals for Rotherham in League One last season and the forward could grab even more for new club Sheff Wed - he can be backed at 12/1 to top the scoring charts.

Oxford's Matt Taylor notched one more than Smith last season and is 12/1 to finish as the division's leading marksman, while Jonson Clarke-Harris struck 31 times during his most recent campaign in League One and the Peterborough hotshot is 7/1 to top the scoring charts.

Morecambe's Cole Stockton (16/1) and Cheltenham's Alfie May (20/1) both defied the odds to score 20-plus goals apiece last term, while this season's surprise package could prove to be Bristol Rovers' Aaron Collins, who struck 16 times during 2021/22 and is 50/1 to finish as the third tier's best goal getter.

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