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It's fixtures day! What to expect when Sunderland's Championship schedule is announced later

Sunderland fans can start planning for the new season when the fixtures are released at 9am this morning.

Sunderland v Manchester City - Premier League Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

It's a month since the Premier League season finished and whilst Sunderland may be manager-less and in the midst of takeover speculation, fans can begin to look forward to the new campaign when the fixtures are released at 9am this morning.

But what can we expect?

The start and finish

The Championship season kicks off on Saturday August 5th though there's likely to be a Friday night game on TV the day before once Sky get a look at the fixtures.

The campaign will be completed on the weekend of May 5th 2018 and the Play-off games are set to take place on Spring Bank Holiday weekend as usual - 26th to 28th May.

But this year, the second-tier final will take place on the Saturday with the order of the league Play-off games reversed - supposedly to assist with international call-ups ahead of the 2018 World Cup.

Blackpool v Exeter City - Sky Bet League Two Playoff Final
Wembley awaits for the Playoff finalists in May
Photo by Barrington Coombs/Getty Images

We already know Sunderland will more than likely be at home on the opening and closing days of the season due to Newcastle playing away from home on those dates.

The bank holidays and festive fixtures

A full festive fixture programme is planned for this year with games scheduled for Saturday December 23rd, Boxing Day, Saturday December 30th and New Year's Day.

Again, Newcastle are at home on Boxing Day so a festive road trip is on the cards this year - as usual. Sunderland haven't been at home on December 26th since 2014.

Easter Sunday is on April 1st next year with games set for the Saturday of that weekend. There's bound to be a smattering of games across the three-day break too.


Mid-week games in the Championship are generally played on a Tuesday or a Wednesday as decided by the home club in the fixture. And there's usually plenty of them in the second-tier.

Sunderland v Manchester City - Premier League
More games under the lights this season as regular mid-week fixtures are a feature in the Championship
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

The EFL say that they endeavour to schedule games during the working week which aren't excessive in distance but with so many other factors to consider for the fixture planning that isn't always possible.

The Derby

The Football League attempt to arrange derbies for weekends to maximise attendances but they also try to avoid bank holidays because of the associated increase in policing costs and the like.

The coming season will feature two games against Middlesbrough of course, though the Teessiders seem to be looking forward to fixtures against Leeds as much as those versus Sunderland.

Middlesbrough v Leicester City - Premier League
A trip to the Riverside will feature somewhere
Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

Local games are avoided on 'key dates' so Sunderland won't play the 'Boro on the opening day, nor on Boxing Day, New Year's Day or the final day.

What about TV games?

No sooner will the fixtures be released than they stand a chance of a little reshuffling for the telly. Sky tend to announce the televised games for the opening weekend more or less simultaneously with the EFL's unveiling of the full schedule.

And cup fixtures?

Round one of the rebranded League Cup has already been drawn with Sunderland travelling to Gigg Lane to play Bury. That game in the Carabao Cup is pencilled in for the 8th August.

The Carabao Cup

The Checkatrade Trophy, the competition which pits academy sides against League One and League Two opposition, will return next season.

Despite criticism, lower division clubs voted to carry on with the tournament in the format it took last time around. It kicks off during week commencing 28th August.

The FA Cup Third Round kicks off on the weekend of January 6th.

So the opening day then...

Sunderland have only won five opening day fixtures in the last twenty years so the law of averages says we're due a victory.

The last time we were in the Championship, the first game of the season saw a 2-0 defeat against Coventry.

Coventry City v Sunderland
Niall Quinn was manager on the opening day the last time Sunderland were in the Championship
Photo by Ben Radford/Getty Images

A late Paddy McNair own goal ensured an opening defeat last season at Manchester City and the previous year was even worse with a 4-2 thrashing by Leicester.

2009 is the last time a Sunderland side won their first game of the season. But, with a huge reboot to come ahead of the first campaign in the second tier in a decade, a fresh start awaits.

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