The Championship begins with the Pars heading to newly promoted Livi
SPFL Championship - Saturday 5 August 2017 - Tony Macaroni Arena - KO 3.00pm
After both teams qualified from their Betfred Cup groups in first place, Dunfermline and Livingston take on each other at the Tony Macaroni Arena on Saturday. The home side, who won League 1 last season, will be confident and are boosted by the form of ex-Par Shaun Byrne in midfield, while Allan Johnston's Pars will have to play without the first choice striking partnership of Nicky Clark and Declan McManus.
Livingston make a return to the Championship after a 1 season absence, after winning League 1 last season. Their league-winning form compares favourably with Dunfermline's title win in the same division the year before (Livi 2016/17: 81 points, 80 goals scored, 24 conceded); Dunfermline 2015/16: 79 points (83 goals for, 30 against). Livi join the Championship as a team more than capable of simply avoiding relegation, and have begun the new campaign in very good form, winning 3 of their 4 Betfred Cup group games, and drawing the other (against Partick Thistle, and winning a bonus point in the penalty shoot out), topping their group.
The Livi directors showed faith in manager David Hopkin after the relegation season of 2015/16 and were rewarded by last season's runaway title success. Hopkin lost last season's top scorer Liam Buchanan but has added 6 new signings: veteran goalkeeper Neil Alexander returns to the club where played between 1998 and 2001, and is joined by Scott Robinson, who had a brief spell with Dunfermline in 2016, plus Josh Peters, Ross Brown, Dylan Mackin and on-loan Hearts striker Nikolay Todorov.
Dunfermline go into the game tomorrow with confidence following last week's game at Tynecastle but are without first choice strikers Nicky Clark (injured) and Declan McManus (suspended). Callum Smith, who made his first start for the first team against Hearts, is likely to continue and will look to build on his impressive display against Hearts. Attacking midfielder Dean Shiels seemed the most likely option to partner Smith up front but it seems that he may miss the game after not recovering sufficiently from injury. David Hopkirk played an hour of a bounce game during the week after a 4 week injury absence, but it would be a surprise if he goes straight into the starting line-up.
The team I have selected below has Kallum Higginbotham playing just off Smith, with new signing Fraser Aird taking Higgy's usual place on the right wing.
Preferred Pars starting 11:
Callum Smith photo & Livi fan quote edit by Pars Review.
Match report/opinion with photos will be posted here around 9pm tomorrow evening.