The Sky Bet League One 2020/21 season is finally ready to get running this weekend. 24 teams will battle once again for those desired promotion spots - with others hoping to scrape safety, and avoid the feared drop.
Joey Barton's Fleetwood Town narrowly missed out on promotion last season. They fell in the semi-final stages of the play-offs, losing 6-3 on aggregate, to eventual promotion winners, Wycombe Wanderers. The Cod Army will be vying for at least another play-off push, however, with the challenge of big clubs such as Hull City and Wigan Athletic dropping down, with aspirations of getting themselves straight back up.
Burton Albion will this season be headed by Jake Buxton, after club legend Nigel Clough stepped down at the height of the pandemic to help reduce the club's damaged finances due to last season being curtailed. Buxton has been studying coaching badges since he was in his teenage years, knowing management was always on his radar - the 35 year-old will begin his first league season in the dugout on Saturday, following two cup games against Accrington Stanley and Peterborough United.
Signing from Huddersfield Town this summer, Joe Coleman won't begin the league season between the sticks for Barton's side. The 24-year old suffered a serious hamstring injury in their Carabao Cup victory over Wigan Athletic, and is set to be sidelined long term.
Devastated to come away from Saturdays game with a hamstring injury. 3-5 months out but I’ll come back fitter and stronger than ever 💪 The comeback is always bigger than the set back 👊🏼🧤⚽️ @ftfc— joel coleman (@joelcoleman33) September 7, 2020
Fleetwood are likely to replace Coleman with Alex Cairns, gaining his place back from last season.
The Brewers will be without several first team players heading into their first league game of the season. New signing Charles Vernam took a knock to the knee during the club's Carabao Cup victory over Accrington last Saturday.
Academy product Reece Hutchinson is still sidelined with an ankle injury, which he sustained whilst out jogging. Aussie midfielder Ryan Edwards has yet to feature this season as he continues his recovery. The 26 year-old may be in contention to make the bench, though he is unlikely to feature.
Joey Barton spoke to iFollowFleetwood in his press conference during the build-up to the weekend fixture, explaining his desire for his team to continue where they left off last season:
“[Jake] Buxton has gone in there and he’ll be looking to enforce his principles. I know what a good side they are - I saw that they drew 3-3 against Peterborough in the EFL Trophy. We know what they’re like, Powell, Quinn, Bostwick, real senior campaigners in the midfield.
“Lucas Akins is there as well, who I think is a fantastic player as he has always caused problems when we’ve played against him. They’ve got some experience in the backline in Brayford and they’ve obviously brought in Eardley from Lincoln City, so we know it’ll be a real tough encounter.
“We want to give a good account of ourselves and it’s important for us that we get the home runs going again. Our two previous campaigns have been built off the fact that we’ve been really solid at Highbury and this season, if we want to be successful, we need to pick up where we left off in the last campaign.”
Jake Buxton held his press conference on Thursday. Speaking to iFollowBrewers, the player/manager seemed upbeat about his side's chances this weekend:
“The lads sensed it in training today. The tempo was good and a little bit frantic as people want to see where they are in the pecking order and they want a shirt. We are a nice healthy squad, competing for those 11 shirts.
“We feel we have prepared well and are fully looking forward to the challenges ahead.
“It will be a good game on Saturday between two footballing sides, who will both try and get the ball down and play. Hopefully, we can get the right result.”
The two side's first met back in 2012. In a late summer fixture, the Pirelli Stadium hosted a debuting fixture. The travelling Cod Army earned a 0-1 away victory that afternoon.
Arguably, in the last six years, Fleetwood have had Burton's number. They have won six of the last eight meetings between the sides - and have not lost at home to the Brewers since 2013 - making this weekend a tricky fixture for the team in yellow.
However, the Brewers will take solace from their 1-0 home victory, when the teams met last season at the Pirelli - it was a late Ryan Edwards goal that sealed all three points for Burton that day.
Of course, since the side's met in the League Two play-off final back in 2014, there has been a minor rivalry between them, with an edge to each fixture.
How to watch
The fixture will be available on both club's respective iFollow channels. A match pass will cost £10, and offers full match coverage on all smart devices. Click the links below to be taken directly two each club's sites.
Kick off is at 15:00 BST.