Sunderland enjoyed a spectacular return to the Championship last time out, coming within touching distance of achieving the remarkable feat of back-to-back promotions. They will undoubtedly be looking to go one better this year and their early season fixture list gives plenty of reason for optimism.
The Wearsiders have been handed a home fixture to kick off the new campaign at what will without doubt be a raucous Stadium of Light. The opposition will be a newly promoted side in the shape of Ipswich Town, who finished last season on an impressive 98 points.
However the Tractor Boys have struggled in their recent stays in the Championship: they finished 16th in the 2016-2017 season, their lowest finish since 1958-1959 and followed that up with a 12th placed finish, before suffering eventual relegation in the 2018-2019 campaign. Even with an improved display last season the Anglia side still failed to win on 18 occasions and will certainly find things a lot tougher in a higher-quality division.
Sunderland will be very much hoping and expecting to start off their season with a win.
The Black Cats 2nd game of the season sees them travel to Deepdale, to face Preston North End. Tony Mowbray’s side were exceptional on the road last season, tasting victory on 11 occasions including a 3-0 success at Preston on the final day of last season.
Their form on the road equated to a massive 33 out of their 69 total points for the season. They will be confident of starting in a similar vein this time around too, with Preston one of the most goal shy and least creative sides in the division last time out.
The Lilywhites scored a total of just 45 goals in 46 league matches and have lost one of their biggest goal threats in forward Tom Cannon, who has since returned to parent club Everton. With that in mind, you would imagine they will find it tough this time around too and Sunderland will have a great chance to open up their time on the road with a victory.
Sunderland’s 3rd game of the opening month sees them welcome Rotherham United to the Stadium of Light. The Millers were another side who struggled last season finishing just 6 points above the bottom 3 and recording just 11 league wins across the whole campaign.
They were also shy in front of goal, scoring just 49 goals while conceding a huge 60 in comparison. The Millers have mostly struggled in their seasons in the championship being relegated on 3 occasions within the last 8 seasons.
It is another game that Sunderland will be targeting for an early season victory, especially considering they demolished Rotherham 3-0 at home last term.
The Black Cats final game of the opening month is arguably their toughest assignment as they head to last season’s beaten play off finalists Coventry City. The Sky Blues were beaten by Luton Town in May; however they are widely fancied to be a threat again towards the top end of the Championship.
They were a consistent force last season losing on just 12 occasions, with most of those coming during a turbulent start to the campaign. They were also free scorers netting 58 goals in their 46 games. However, they have lost one of the Championship’s most prolific marksman in Viktor Gyokeres, although he has been replaced by Everton forward Ellis Simms, who every Sunderland supporter will remember from his productive loan spell with the club last term.
This, on paper is without doubt the first big test of the new season, but if the Black Cats can replicate their away form of the last 12 months then they have every reason to believe they can come out of this clash with something.
The Championship promises to be an immensely tough test this year and Sunderland may do well to repeat their strong showing of last season.
However, with their fixtures in the early part of the season there is every chance they can start the upcoming season in exactly the same way.