Ipswich Town and Wigan Athletic have each spent the vast majority of the 21st century in the top two tiers of English football, but the two clubs now find themselves preparing to face off in tier three.
After suffering relegation to League One in April 2019, the Tractor Boys set out to bounce back immediately. They sat among the automatic promotion places for parts of last season, but collapsed from December onwards, eventually finishing in 11th position on points-per-game.
On the other hand, despite earning victories in five of their final nine games of the season, Wigan were relegated from the Championship having been deducted 12 points after the club went into administration. Without the deduction, the Latics would have finished comfortably in mid-table.
They have since experienced a summer of turmoil, and only received permission to start the league season under administration from the EFL on Friday (September 11). An opening day win would no doubt be welcomed during these testing times for the club.
Defenders Kane Vincent-Young (Achilles) and Corrie Ndaba (dead leg) are both set to miss out for the Tractor Boys with injury problems, while Cole Skuse and Kayden Jackson are also unlikely to feature.
Meanwhile, forwards James Norwood and Oli Hawkins could make the matchday squad but are not expected to be fit enough to start the game.
As for Wigan, their squad will look very different to the one which finished last season. So far this summer they have lost a total of 20 players as well as former manager Paul Cook; exits which had to take place if the club is to survive.
On a more positive note, versatile defenders Josh Clarke and Danny Fox – who signed for the Latics on short-term deals on Friday – could both make their debuts against Ipswich, subject to EFL approval.
Ipswich: Holy; Chambers, Woolfenden, Nsiala, Ward; Bishop, Dozzell, Nolan; Sears, Drinan, Judge.
Wigan: Jones; Clarke, Obi, Long, Pearce; L. Evans, Merrie; Naismith, Roberts, Solomon-Otabor; Garner.
The last time the two sides met was in February 2019, when a stoppage-time goal from Joe Garner earned the Latics a 1-1 draw. Earlier in that 2018/19 Championship season, Paul Lambert picked up his first win as Ipswich manager against the Greater Manchester club, with Freddie Sears grabbing the only goal.
In fact, Wigan have not beaten the Tractor Boys in a competitive fixture since March 2014, so they will be keen to banish that statistic on Sunday afternoon.
On that day six years ago, James McClean bagged a brace and former Norwich City centre-back Leon Barnett also found the net to seal a 3-1 away victory for the Latics.
Ones to watch
Young striker Aaron Drinan joined Ipswich from Irish club Waterford in January 2018 while Mick McCarthy was still in charge at Portman Road, but only made his first-team debut last weekend against Bristol Rovers in the Carabao Cup.
Having enjoyed four different loan spells since signing for the Suffolk club, the 22-year-old looks set to feature prominently in the Tractor Boys’ attack this term.
Drinan looked in confident mood during pre-season, and with the majority of Town’s other forward options unavailable to play, he could make a real statement by providing a good performance against the Latics.
Wigan could be in for a difficult season after losing so many players during the current transfer window, but their hopes of a successful year will be boosted significantly if they are able to hold onto experienced striker Joe Garner.
The former Rangers man last played in League One in the 2014/15 season, when he scored more goals than any other player in the division (25). Now aged 32, Garner should still be more than capable of producing the goods in the third-tier.
He will have an extra incentive to find the net this weekend, having made a total of 32 appearances for Ipswich in his sole campaign there in 2017/18.
Ipswich boss Paul Lambert has revealed that he is expecting a difficult test this weekend, even after the chaotic summer which the Latics have endured.
He said: "I know they’ve had a bit of turmoil up there with some guys moving and the manager leaving. With the administration, it can’t be a nice place to work at.
"We have to play our way, we have to play our game and not worry about what happens there. They are still a good team, they still have some good players there.
"Lee Evans, who I worked with at Wolves, is a really good player. It’s still a dangerous game. We have to play as well as we have been and hopefully get a result."
Meanwhile, Wigan officially announced the appointment of John Sheridan as their new manager on Friday, less than 48 hours before their trip to Suffolk.
Discussing his thoughts on the task ahead, Sheridan stated: “I am really pleased to be given the opportunity to work with Leam (Richardson) and the rest of the coaching staff to try and provide some stability for the players in what is a challenging time for the club.
“For me, regardless of the situation, this is a good chance to come and manage a good football club that – despite some well-documented departures – still has some very good players at the level.
“I am looking forward to getting going and can assure the club’s supporters that I will give my all to try and help the team in this period.”
This match takes place on September 13 and will be broadcast live on Sky Sports Football, with the action kicking off at midday.