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Blades and Bristol City begin League One promotion battle

Sheffield United (13/8) and Bristol City (5/2) are two of Coral’s promotion favourites in League One, but the Blades have won five of the last six league meetings between the two sides.

Nigel Clough’s Steel City side are worthy 21/20 favourites for an opening day victory, then. Recruitment at Bramall Lane has been heavy, following United’s sensational FA Cup run to the semi-finals and seventh place finish last term.

Although star centre back Harry Maguire was sold to Hull City, and John Brayford is yet to make his loan switch from Cardiff City permanent, Clough has managed to strengthen at both ends of the pitch. Andy Butler and the versatile Chris Basham join Craig Alcock and youngster Harrison McGahey in a new-look Blades spine. It’s 31/20 that these names gel quickly and keep a clean sheet here.

Ben Davies and Bob Harris, meanwhile, have made permanent switches following successful loan spells as full backs in Sheffield last term. Midfielder James Wallace, an Everton academy graduate, will have to wait for his debut, however.

The United attack has been overhauled now, so there is real strength in depth with Michael Higdon, Marc McNulty and wideman Jamal Campbell-Ryce all added. Higdon, top scorer in the SPL two seasons ago, is an 11/8 chance to break his Blades duck anytime, while McNulty is also the same price.

Punters should not discount Jose Baxter, another Everton old boy, as he netted last in United’s previous meeting with the Robins. He is a better-priced 13/8 in the anytime market. The Blades won to nil that day, and are 9/4 to do so again.

Bristol City boss Steve Cotterill has added ex-Arsenal forward Luke Freeman and veteran striker Aaron Wilbraham to his ranks. Despite these names and leading League One top scorer from last term, Sam Baldock, the Robins are 11/4 outsiders for an opening day win. Odds on a draw are 9/4.

Freeman hardly set the world alight at strugglers Stevenage in this division last term, but is 11/4 to cap his debut with a goal. Baldock, meanwhile, is a shorter 6/4 in the anytime market. Cotterill’s defensive recruitments Luke Ayling and Mark Little look far less impressive than the opposition, though, and whether they can tighten up a rearguard that let in 67 goals last season remains to be seen.

Third-tier title favourites at 11/2, the Blades look well-placed to beat Bristol City here, so long as their new names work well from the off.