In last season’s meeting Poole took the lead in the very early stages and never relinquished their advantage as they embarked on their most successful year to date in the Elite League.
Expect a closer affair this time around, with Ipswich in a much better position to be able to cope with Poole’s heat leaders. Adam Peck and the Osborne brothers Lewis and Chris look in good form following the weekend’s regional league fixtures, and they will all be looking to make a winning start at they make their Ipswich debuts.
In addition, Leon Mower, Jamie Chittock and Josh Brooke all look in good condition and should be expected to line up in the eagle’s opener. It would be surprising to see Dan Pike and Richard Williamson not included in the home team’s line up, both have huge experience at the top level and both are excellent around the eagle’s home circuit.
It will be interesting to see where young Lewis Roberts lines up come Sunday for Ipswich, the Irish international is a huge talent and could be deployed tactically as Ipswich look to get their season off to the best possible start.
Poole will know that if they are to go one step further this season in the Elite League they have to win matches like the one they face Sunday.
Phil Howells should make his Poole debut as he makes the short trip up the a140, and he will be joined in the line up by world veteran champion Steve Harris as he will also pull on a Poole shirt in the Elite League for the first time.
Gniezno riders Greg Gluchowski and Mikel Nowak could feature for Poole, as could Southampton duo Gavin Wheeler and Tom Colling.
The management team at Poole will field their home grown stars Sam Hearn, Leyton Glover and Aaron Morgan, and will utilise the new number 9 & 10 ruling intelligently to their advantage.
The big question is whether Polish superstars Marcin Szymanski and Maciej Ganzerak will race at Ipswich, they did last season and the effect against the Eagles was devastating.
Szymanski in particular has a liking for the superb Ipswich track; he didn’t drop a point in the corresponding fixture last season and of course won the European Championship on the same track just a few months later.
These two teams met on the opening day of last season, with Horspath edging a physical and tight affair. Expect more of the same again as both teams will know victory will put them in a great position to mount a serious title challenge.
Horspath will give a debut to young Welshman Jack Harrold and world champion Lukas Nowacki will also race in what is his second spell with the Oxford club. Nowacki looks to be in excellent condition if pre season results are anything to go by and Horspath’s home circuit is an environment Lukas is more than comfortable with.
With Mark Boaler, Mark Carmichael, Shaun Rudham and Lewis Bates all available Horspath will have a really strong look about them, perhaps the strongest in the league as far as a top six is concerned, as they prepare to do battle with perhaps their biggest title challengers.
Expect to see the return of home based duo David Carmichael and Wayne Hutt in the reserve spots on Sunday as both riders make a return to the sport after a few seasons absence.
Wednesfield will give debuts to winter signings Paul Heard and Craig Marchant in what otherwise should be a familiar looking aces outfit.
Marchant has featured already in a number of matches for both Wednesfield and Leicester so should be in good physical shape and is probably one of the best riders in the team.
The new riders should be joined by Ben Mould, Lee Aris and Chris Jewkes, with youngsters Ricki Johnson and Matt Haddock also expected to line up following excellent pre seasons.
Mark Griffiths has been struggling with a back injury he picked up in pre season so might not make the season opener, so either Scott Doherty or Tom Haddock could take the last remaining place in the aces team, unless of course Wednesfield’s Polish star Przemymslaw Binkowski makes an appearance against his old club.
If the 18 heats were not going to be enough entertainment, Wednesfield’s Paul Heard will defend the Elite League Riders Championship that he currently holds from the 2012 season whilst representing Birmingham.
Trying to second guess the Birmingham line up for Sunday’s Elite League season opener is probably the toughest one to make, with the monarchs being the busiest club in the winter rebuilding their line up for the new campaign.
What you can guarantee is their number one rider Chris Timms will race, and to be fair will be pretty tough to beat off the back of his recent victory over the Easter bank holiday weekend. He should be joined by fellow brummies Nathan Groves, Scott Milward and Mark Winwood who will form the backbone of the side.
It’s imperative that Birmingham are able to have their Polish pair of Dominic Rycharski and Konrad Pientak available for the season, both are quality riders and have the ability to provide much needed support to Chris Timms in the Birmingham attack.
Almost certainly Chris Parish will make his Birmingham debut, perhaps out of all the signings the monarchs have made over the season Chris will prove to be the most astute. As for the remaining places in the line up, this could be Myke Grimes, David Ball or Kieron Jones, all possess the ability mix it with the best in the Elite League.
Sheffield will be fully aware of the importance of Sunday’s trip to Birmingham; they lost this corresponding fixture last season heavily and will need to perform a lot better than they did on that day.
The now two time British Champion Andy Angell will of course lead the Sheffield attack and will be a real handful for Birmingham to deal with all afternoon. Andy’s Hull team mate and training partner Adam Stephenson will wear the orange and black colours for the first time Sunday, as will former European Champion Damien Zaremba who will be looking forward to his first taste of top flight cycle speedway racing in a number of years.
There is an injury doubt over Sheffield’s Polish superstar Radek Handke so he may miss the trip to Birmingham, but the stars do posses strength in depth. Jamie Ball had a quite brilliant season in 2012 and the Sandwell track is one he is very familiar with so expect Jamie to score well. In addition the Smith brothers also know the Sandwell track like the back of their hands, so again they should be able to score big points for the stars.
The new British Indoor champion Ryan Hoyland is an integral part of the machine and fulfils a quality, yet sometimes unglamorous job in the Sheffield line up. With Jamie Brown also back in full time racing, and Pawel Idziorek and Dan Chambers also available you can see the riches that Sheffield have in their locker, and they will provide a real test for the new look Birmingham team come 2pm Sunday.