What can Sunderland expect from their first five Championship opponents? Managers and squads so far assessed

Derby County boss Gary Rowett. PA pic
Derby County boss Gary Rowett. PA pic
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Sunderland have been handed a difficult start to the season with five challenging games in August.

Derby County visit the Stadium of Light on Friday, August 4, in a televised game, with Gary Rowett admitting that he doesn’t yet know what to expect from managerless Sunderland.

He said: “It’s a good start and one that is interesting.

“It is a bit of a journey and at the moment, Sunderland are a tad unknown in terms of the manager and the make-up of their squad.

So what can Sunderland expect from their opponents? Here we run the rule over the opening opponents.

DERBY COUNTY

MANAGER: GARY ROWETT

SIGNED SO FAR: Andre Wisdom (Liverpool), Curtis Davies (Hull City)

STATE OF PLAY: Rowett’s summer signings reflect the defensive deficiences that have blighted Derby in recent seasons.

Perennial play-off favourites and therefore perennial underacheivers, Rowett will look to go one better this season.

Potential sales of Tom Ince and Will Hughes will leave them short of creativity but their strength is to get goals from all over the pitch.

The return of Chris Martin from a loan at Fulham gives them depth and variety up front and they will be well prepared by the time August 4th comes around.

NORWICH CITY

MANAGER: DANIEL FARKE

SIGNED SO FAR: Marley Watkins (Barnsley), Mario Vrancic (Darmstadt), Christoph Zimmermann (Dortmund II)

STATE OF PLAY: Change is in the air at Carrow Road with a number of seasoned pros such as Jon Ruddy, Sebastian Bassong and Michael Turner leaving on free transfers.

The arrival of Borussia Dortmund reserve coach Farke, hired by the man who brought David Wagner to Huddersfield, sees Norwich attempting to replicate the Terriers model, seen in their early signings.

Starting from a position of considerable strength in terms of the squad already assembled, they look set to be a real force this season.

SHEFFIELD WED

MANAGER: CARLOS CARVALHAL

SIGNED SO FAR: N/A

STATE OF PLAY: Yet to make inroads in the transfer market but after a period of sustained investment, will feel they don’t have to.

Commiting Carvalhal to a new contract will prove to be their best bit of business and with goals, creativity and a strong defence, they won’t be far off the top two this time around.

Former Sunderland favourite Ross Wallace is still performing for the Owls, while Steven Fletcher will be looking to build on a promising first season.

LEEDS UNITED

MANAGER: THOMAS

CHRISTIANSEN

SIGNED SO FAR: N/A

STATE OF PLAY: Quite how Leeds will look under the relatively unknown former Barcelona striker remains to be seen but they have given themselves a good chance of building on last season by committing Pontus Jansson and Hadi Sacko to permanent deals.

Kyle Bartley, who has returned to Swansea, will be a big miss this season but if Chris Wood replicates his Defoe-esque goalscoring heroics of last season, they will give their new boss a good chance of success.

BARNSLEY

MANAGER: PAUL HECKINGBOTTOM

SIGNED SO FAR: Stevie Mallan (St Mirren), Jason McCarthy (Southampton)

STATE OF PLAY: Losing Josh Cowen and Marley Watkins on free transfers are major blows to a side that lost key midfielder Conor Hourihane in January.

Paul Heckingbottom faces a major challenge to repeat his heroics of last season and this a game Sunderland will be looking to target, particularly if key defender Marc Roberts leaves as well. The Black Cats can’t afford to underestimate a side that counter-attacked so superbly last season.