Charlton Atheltic v Crystal Palace, 7.45pm
14 September ~ At this stage of the season I think most of us would like to see our teams playing three times a week, at least. Having spent pre-season scouring the message boards for rumours of signings and tried our very hardest to ignore friendly results we pore over the opening games for signs of what the next eight months will bring. For Charlton fans this process has been particularly intense. Our fall from the Premier League has accustomed us to expect doom around every corner yet last season, somehow, under the smiling leadership of Chris Powell, we ran away with League One.
Are we destined to follow Southampton and Norwich, leaping straight up to the big league? Or will the hard-fought 1-0 victories in League One become hard-fought 1-0 defeats in the Championship, pushing us down into the lower reaches of the division?
So far we have outplayed Birmingham and drawn, squeaked a win against Leicester, settled for 0-0 with Hull and been outclassed by Nottingham Forest. Mid-table form. But if we win on Friday night we will be, albeit briefly, in a play-off position (with only 41 games to go). Lose and we could end the weekend hovering above the relegation zone.
None of which will be on any fan's mind at 7.45pm on Friday. It's Charlton against Palace, a long-standing rivalry that has had some pantomime moments in recent years (starring Simon Jordan as Widow Twankey) and some nasty ones outside the ground and on the trains.
It won't be full – our escape from League One has boosted crowds but we're still a long way from the sell-outs we enjoyed in the top division – but it will be intense. It is likely to be frantic and close, with the difference coming down to which team makes the more serious errors in defence and takes their chances in attack.
For Charlton the big news could arrive with an appearance from our new signing Ricardo Fuller. Chris Powell talks of wanting to play a passing game (which manager, Sam Allardyce aside, doesn't?) but we're more of an aspiring Everton than a Swansea, at our best playing at a high tempo, quick on the break with a powerful centre-forward spearheading our attack.
Supporters will want to win against a local – and in many cases genuinely loathed – rival. For the two managers it will be all about the points. Ridiculous, really, to be feeling the pressure of league position at this early stage but, with both teams desperate not to lose, I'd put my money on a draw. Tom Green