The 2020/21 Championship season will kick off with a bang as Dundee head to fellow-promotion contenders Hearts for a mouth-watering opening day clash at Tynecastle.
James McPake’s Dark Blues are expected to go head-to-head with Robbie Neilson’s Jambos in the race to the Premiership this coming season and will have the chance to lay down a marker straight away.
Kicking off on the weekend of October 17, this season’s second tier will be a shorter affair than usual with only 27 matches and teams facing each other just three times.
That means it’s the luck of the draw for home advantage in key games.
And it’s fair to say Dundee’s luck hasn’t been in.
As well as playing relegated Hearts away twice, the Dark Blues face two trips to last season’s runners-up Inverness and visit fourth-placed Ayr United twice, teams expected to be in the mix once again.
On top of that there are two away games on the plastic parks of both Alloa and Queen of the South – the first of those on Boxing Day before the Dee end their campaign at Palmerston on April 30.
With an odd number of games, half the teams would also miss out on one home game and, once more, lady luck hasn’t shined on the Dark Blues with 13 home matches and 14 away.
With money tight at the club due to the coronavirus shutdown, Dundee have the right to feel aggrieved they will have to go with one less home game than others as well as only having one big pay day from a sizeable Hearts travelling support.
That is, providing fans will be allowed inside the stadiums by that point.
On paper, James McPake and his men have been handed a difficult Championship calendar but it’s also one with opportunity.
The opening day Hearts clash will kick off the campaign with one of the biggest games of the season. However, it’s also a chance to lay down a marker.
Grab a positive result there and the Dark Blues head into two home games on the bounce with Morton and newly-promoted Raith Rovers coming to town before the end of October – an opportunity to get off to a flying start.
On the back of a trip to face Ayr, Dundee play Dick Campbell’s Arbroath at Dens before a Highlands clash with Inverness and then facing a Dunfermline side that has strengthened well over the past few weeks.
After a Boxing Day trip to Dumfries, it’s the only midweek fixture of the campaign – home to Alloa – four days before hosting Hearts in what’s likely to be one of the biggest matches of the calendar for the Dens men.
With only 10 of the 27 matches before the turn of the year, getting 2021 off to a strong start will be essential to any promotion bid.
That’s where the fixture list looks to be in Dundee’s favour – successive home games against the Jambos, Ayr and Inverness with trips to Raith and Arbroath in between.
That run from the start of the year through to March’s return to Tynecastle will be the key to success for James McPake and his men before heading into the final eight matches.
The Dark Blues won’t be too happy with the card they’ve been dealt by the SPFL but defiance in the face of adversity is a trait at Dens Park.
And come the final day on a Friday night at Queen of the South, the players will still fancy they can finish up on top and get the club back to the big time – even if they have to do it the hard way.