After a long wait the 2023/24 EFL Championship season is finally upon us and proceedings are set to kick with a mouthwatering encounter between two Championship new boys: Sheffield Wednesday and Southampton.
Freshly promoted from League One off the back of a dramatic play-off campaign, Sheffield Wednesday's preparation for life in England's second tier has been less than ideal.
Just weeks after the club confirmed their promotion at Wembley manager Darren Moore, along with his entire backroom staff, were the subject of a shock departure from Hillsborough following an issue regarding contract demands.
As such, former Watford manager Xisco Muñoz has been awarded the opportunity to succeed Darren Moore and to call that an underwhelming appointment would be an understatement.
It wouldn't be fair to write off the Spaniard while he's yet to take charge of a single game and that's not what we're about to do here, but his prior managerial record leaves a lot to be desired with each of his last three jobs resulting in him being dismissed before the season's conclusion.
The Owls have been fairly active in the transfer market this summer after making last season's loanee Reece James a permanent fixture of the squad in addition to the singings of Juan Delgado from Paços de Ferreira, Pol Valentín from Sporting Gijón, Di'Shon Bernard from Manchester United and Ashley Fletcher on loan from Watford.
While they've made a few reinforcements their window has been far from transformative from a quality perspective so fans of The Owls will no doubt be approaching this season with trepidation given everything that's happened off the field.
They've also been given what could be a baptism of fire on paper as they prepare to face one of the promotion favourites in their opening game so they'll have to spring a big surprise here if they are to come away with a positive result.
While very active, Southampton's summer has been much less eventful than that of their opponents.
Freshly relegated form the Premier League, The Saints will be hoping to bounce back to the promise land at the first time of asking and while their chances look excellent on paper they're still coming into this campaign with a few unanswered questions lingering over their heads.
Southampton expectedly parted ways with short-term manager Rubén Sellés following relegation and Russell Martin, who's spent the last two seasons in charge of Swansea City, is the man who's been tasked to lead their charge back to the Premier League.
A divisive appointment, the instinctive feel is that it seems like a risky appointment with a high upside potential; Martin has just a 36.86% win rate on average from his time at MK Dons Swansea, with the latter's fanbase seemingly divided on the success of his tenure at the club.
Some fans seem to argue that he did well given the tools at his disposal while others argue he underwhelmed with decent squad. With the likes of Nathan Wood, Matt Grimes and Joël Piroe at hand the latter argument may appear to hold more weight.
They've had a pretty impressive transfer window thus far having brought in Martin's former left-back at Swansea, Ryan Manning, alongside youngsters Josh McNamara from Manchester City and Derrick Abu from Chelsea.
Their marquee signing, though, is 19-year-old Northern Ireland international Shea Charles, a £14m incoming from Manchester City that was subject to criticism given the fee involved for a player with little senior experience.
His talent is undeniable, though, and Southampton are still in a very strong position given they've so far retained most of their best Premier League performers.
Mohammed Salisu appears to be on the verge of a move to Monaco and fellow Ghanian Kamaldeen Sulemana could yet follow him out of the door, but West Ham United's bid to sign James Ward-Prowse seems to have collapsed and moves for star right-back Tino Livramento don't appear to be picking up much pace.
But one man almost certain to leave is Roméo Lavia, the Belgian defensive midfielder who plays to a level beyond his teenage years who is being aggressively courted by Liverpool amongst other Premier League giants.
Even with the departures of the aforementioned players, however, Southampton are still loaded with talent, particularly young talent, and their fans should expect nothing less than promotion this season.
They're well stacked in almost every position but Russell Martin now has the task of creating a system in which these players can thrive and form workable relationships.
They should be a fun team to follow this season and given the eery vibe around Sheffield Wednesday at present they should be looking to capitalise on what could become a tense Hillsborough atmosphere if things start to go south for the home side.
For our Sheffield Wednesday vs. Southampton prediction, we're going for a 2-1 win for the away side.