Ebbsfleet United manager Dennis Kutrieb is looking forward to a great first game of the season.
Fleet are back at the top of non-league football and begin their 2023/24 National League campaign at Rochdale (5.30pm), a club relegated from League 2.
The Dale are among the favourites for promotion, along with other former Football League sides Chesterfield and Oldham.
“It is a great game,” said Kutrieb. “A few months ago we were two leagues difference and now we play in the same league, a great challenge for us at the beginning.
“They will want to be back where they have been as quickly as possible. We need to be very careful in our approach and we need to make sure that we are confident and composed enough to do what we want to do.
“It will be a very interesting game, a great game to start. I can’t wait for the challenge.”
Fleet have a few knocks in the camp but Kutrieb says his team haven’t picked up any major injuries over pre-season.
“We just have a few things which you can’t avoid in pre-season,” he said.
“A few of the new players need to get used to us with our intensity as well, that is why they have picked up a few more knocks and niggles than the others because they aren’t used to it.
“There is nobody out for a long time so everyone will be back in a short amount of time, there is nobody I am worried about.”
And there’s always an opportunity for a new face, should Kutrieb feel they need one.
He said: “We still have space for one more player. We will have a look and if we can find the right fit then we will definitely do something.
“If we find one more piece which can make us better as a team straight away then we would do it, not that we have to do it, but we would be open-minded with whatever comes up.”
As for expectations, Kutrieb will be taking it game by game.
They were, as the club put it, “relegated by formula” from this level in 2020 after the season was curtailed following the Covid pandemic, dropping out on points per game average, losing their place by just 0.002 of a point.
“I have always got very high expectations,” said the manager, having guided his side to the National League South title last season with a 20-point gap ahead of nearest challengers Dartford.
“If you try and do the right things week in, week out you can end up winning games and winning games will end up being in the right place in the table.”