Two sides with strong promotion credentials face off on the opening weekend of the League Two season in West Yorkshire.
Colchester United reached the play-offs last season, losing in the semi-finals to Exeter City, but it has been all change since then with manager John McGreal dismissed and a big portion of his squad moved on. With the impact of the coronavirus pandemic seeing belts being tightened, replacements have been thin on the ground with only Shamal George and Tommy Smith brought in permanently.
Like for McGreal four years previously, Colchester appointed a new head coach from within, promoting assistant boss Steve Ball. The 51-year-old is a newcomer to EFL management and has a tough task emulating last season’s achievement, and has started with cup defeats at Reading and Portsmouth.
It has been a far more positive start for Bradford City, who beat title favourites Bolton Wanderers in the EFL Cup before seeing a second string beat a strong Doncaster Rovers on penalties in the EFL Trophy.
It all adds up to a good mood for Stuart McCall, who returned for a third spell at the club in February. The Bantams finished short of the play-off spots last time out but the likes of Callum Cooke, Elliot Watt and Billy Clarke look like shrewd signings, and a top-seven challenge will be expected, starting against one of the teams who beat them to it last term.
The only unavailable players for McCall are Levi Sutton, serving a suspension from last season, and the injured Connor Shanks. Zeli Ismail will return after a negative Covid-19 test earlier in the week.
Tom Lapslie and Diaz Wright are both sidelined with knee injuries for the U’s, who could hand striker Martel Taylor-Crossdale his first start on loan from Fulham.
Bradford: O’Donnell; A O’Connor, P O’Connor, Richards-Everton; French, Cooke, Watt, Wood; Clarke; Guthrie, Novak.
Colchester: Gerken; Welch-Hayes, Eastman, Smith, Bramall; Stevenson, Pell; Poku, Gambin, Senior; Brown.
What the managers have said
Ahead of the match, Bradford’s McCall said: “We have had a really good week of training and we feel as though we are well prepared for Saturday.
“We have done our research on Colchester and we know what to expect. I watched their game at Reading last week in the Carabao Cup and they performed really well, despite defeat.
“They have three fast, attacking players up front and I have seen enough of them to know where their main threats are.”
Colchester boss Ball said of their start: “We have played at two brilliant stadiums (Reading and Portsmouth), and we have to take positives out of it.
“Of course we want to get better results, but it's been a really tough start. The players can't wait for Saturday when we will go to another big stadium.
“Bradford will be one of the favourites to get out of the league this season. What a chance to go and get a win.”
These sides have only met once in the past four years, a goalless draw in Essex in January last season. Colchester won on their last visit to Valley Parade in 2016, with Bradford having a poor record over these opponents – failing to win in the last five, and coming out on top only once in 12 fixtures going back to 1982.