Pompey will be hoping to win their first match of many tomorrow as they take on Carlisle United at Fratton Park for the opening match of the season.
Matt Clarke, Ben Close and Brandan Haunstrup are out with groin, hamstring and collarbone injuries respectively whilst Christian Oxlade-Chamberlain has been loaned to Salisbury for a month. Gareth Evans may be fit enough for a place on the bench whilst David Forde, Drew Talbot, Carl Baker and Milan Lalkovic are all set to make their competitive Pompey debuts.
Carlisle's top scorer last season in Jabo Ibhere is doubtful to play tomorrow's match with a knee injury but former Morecambe duo Jamie Devitt and Shaun Miller are likely to start. Nicky Adams, signed from Northampton in the summer, should also make his debut for the Cumbrians.
Last season's play-off defeat to Plymouth back in May seems a lot longer ago than it actually was and thankfully there hasn't been any real talk of a play-off hangover going into the 2016/2017 with Paul Cook and his men in confident mood.
Pre-season has allowed the manager to get his team fit and gel together to produce a team that can win matches in style and break down the most stubborn defences. It'll be exciting to see just how the new men play during a league game but the existing players will also want to bounce back from the heartbreak of last season with the likes of Gary Roberts looking sharper than last year.
The big question will be whether Cook decides to stick with his trusted 4-2-3-1 formation or to go with the diamond formation he has tried during the friendlies which has seen Conor Chaplin play up front with a strike partner with Baker just behind. It's likely to be the former with the latter option available if Pompey need a goal later in the game.
Carlisle are tipped to do well by many this season and should be tough opposition for the opening day. Devitt and Adams were two of the best players in the league for assists last season but without Ibhere to convert their crosses they may find themselves lacking.
The result may well rest on which team has the best defence during this game. Portsmouth's back four couldn't shake off their set-piece gremlins during pre-season and will look to Forde to provide some composure. Pompey fans can be quick to judge and if the Millwall loanee were to make a mistake tomorrow than that may well bury him given how he would be labelled by some of the more vociferous fans at Fratton Park. A solid debut will do him the power of good but that applies to all the new faces tomorrow.
The Cumbrians are hardly known for their defensive prowess, either. They haven't kept a clean sheet against Portsmouth since 1985 and given the firepower at Pompey's disposal and the fact that Carlisle don't seem to have strengthened their defence sufficiently over the summer, there should be at least one goal for the home fans to cheer tomorrow.
It should be an entertaining match at Fratton Park and hopefully it'll result in the fans going home happy with the first three points of the season in the bag. After all, we don't want the excitement for this season to be doused on day one now, do we?
Play Up Pompey!
Predicted Starting Line-Ups
GK: David FORDE
RB: Drew TALBOT
CB: Christian BURGESS
CB: Jack WHATMOUGH
LB: Enda STEVENS
DM: Michael DOYLE
DM: Danny ROSE
RM: Gary ROBERTS
AM: Carl BAKER
LM: Milan LALKOVIC
CF: Michael SMITH
GK: Mark GILLESPIE
RB: David ATKINSON
CB: Michael RAYNES
CB: Shaun BRISLEY
LB: Macaulay GILLESPHAY
RM: Jamie DEVITT
CM: Luke JOYCE
CM: Mike JONES
CM: Reggie LAMBE
LM: Nicky ADAMS
CF: Shaun MILLER
Last Season: Portsmouth 1 Carlisle United 0 (League Two - 02/04/2016)
Michael Smith scored the only goal of the game to give Pompey's automatic promotion chances a much needed boost going into the final furlong of a season that would ultimately end in failure.
Like last season, the defence and their lack of concentration as a unit is worrying. Whatmough needs to step up if he is picked alongside Burgess at centre back but then Carlisle like to play open football and that should play into the hands of this new team brimming with attacking talent. It'll be a close game but I fancy Pompey to begin the new season with a hard-fought win.
Portsmouth 2 Carlisle United 1