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How Sunderland's early opponents are shaping up for the Championship campaign and what to expect

Sunderland's return to the Championship moved a significant step closer on Thursday morning as the club's fixture list was revealed.

By Phil Smith
Thursday, 23rd June 2022, 12:45 pm

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In a hectic start to a campaign, the Black Cats will play seven times in the league before the end of August and the closing of the transfer window.

There will also be a Carabao Cup first round tie to factor in, underlining the importance of making a strong start.

So how are those opening opponents shaping up for the season and what can Sunderland expect?

Sunderland boss Alex Neil

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We take a closer look…

COVENTRY CITY

Sunday July 31st – 12pm (H)

Last season's finish: 12thPromotion odds: 9/1Major deals so far: Kasey Palmer (In, Bristol City)Coventry have done superbly since winning promotion from League One, consolidating their second-tier status and doing so by maintaining their style of play. There is currently some transfer uncertainty over some of their star players, including midfielders Gustavo Hamer and Callum O'Hare, as well as striker Victor Gyokeres, but they will provide a good test regardless of Sunderland's second-tier credentials. The Sky Blues are certainly not to be underestimated after years of consistent progress under Mark Robins, who started the summer by signing a new contract.

BRISTOL CITY

Saturday August 6th – 3pm (A)

Last season's finish: 17thPromotion odds: 16/1Major deals so far: Kane Wilson (In, Forest Green Rovers) Kal Naismith (In, Luton Town) Mark Sykes (In, Oxford United)Bristol City have made a solid start to their summer business after a season of transition under Nigel Pearson, which saw them finish in the lower reaches of the table but without ever really falling into relegation danger. Kane Wilson in particular looks an exciting addition after a superb season at Forest Green Rovers. They have plenty of quality in their squad but there are question marks over whether Antoine Semenyo, who has made a big impact since his Sunderland loan, will be fit for this game.

QUEENS PARK RANGERS

Saturday August 13th – 3pm (H)

Last season's finish: 11thPromotion odds: 8/1Major deals so far: Kenneth Paal (In, PEC Zwolle) Jake Clarke-Salter (In, Chelsea) Charlie Austin (Out, released) Jordy de Wijs (Out, Fortuna Dusseldorf)QPR spent most of last season firmly in contention for a play-off place, before falling away in the closing stages. They have since replaced Mark Warburton with Michael Beale, formerly assistant to Steven Gerrard at Aston Villa and Rangers. That means they will start the campaign as something of an unknown quantity, though Beale is highly-regarded both as a coach and a tactician. After impressive work overhauling their squad in recent years they will expect to challenge for the play-offs again. Former Sunderland loanee Jimmy Dunne is a key part of their group, having made good progress in recent years.

SHEFFIELD UNITED

Tuesday August 16th – 7.45 (A)

Last season's finish: 5thPromotion odds: 3/1Major deals so far: Lys Mousset (Out, released) David McGoldrick (Out, released)The Blades have yet to get their summer business started but they will be one of the favourites for promotion, one of the sides still benefiting from Premier League parachute payments. After a sluggish start last time out they were excellent through the second half of the season under Paul Heckingbottom, and this will be a very difficult fixture for the Black Cats. The core of Heckingbottom's group remains strong, including a number of the group who so impressively sealed promotion from this division in 2018/19.

STOKE CITY

Saturday August 20th – 3pm (A)

Last season's finish: 14thPromotion odds: 13/2Major deals so far: Aden Flint (In, Cardiff City) Josh Laurent (In, Reading) Harry Clarke (In, Arsenal) Alfie Doughty (Out, Luton Town)Michael O'Neill's side have not quite been able to truly push into promotion contention over the last couple of seasons and the quality they boast in their squad underlines why it is a significant step up to second-tier level. One to watch over the next few weeks is the future of Josh Maja, who spent the second half of the season on loan here and has been linked with a return on a permanent basis.

NORWICH CITY

Saturday August 27th – 3pm (H)

Last season's finish: 20th (Premier League)Promotion odds: 23/10Major deals so far: Isaac Hayden (In, Newcastle United)Norwich are unsurprisingly the favourites to win the Championship next season. They will lose players this summer for sure but they have an excellent manager for the level in Dean Smith already in place, and should be able to keep the core of their group together. The impressive loan signing of Isaac Hayden underlines how competitive they will be. Even on home turf, this will be a stern test of whether Sunderland can make the step up.

ROTHERHAM UNITED

Tuesday August 31st – Rotherham United (H)

Last season's finish: 2nd (League One)Promotion odds: 25/1Major deals so far: Conor Washington (In, Charlton Athletic) Michael Smith (Out, Sheffield Wednesday) Michael Ihiekwe (Out, Sheffield Wednesday) Freddie Ladapo (Out, Ipswich Town)Rotherham's preparations for the new campaign were hit with a major blow on Wednesday night when Michael Smith and Michael Ihiekwe, two of the key players in Paul Warne's side last season, opted to stay in League One and join Sheffield Wednesday.Warne had been anticipating their possible departure for some time and so will have likely replacements in mind, but it represents a major rebuilding challenge.Rotherham have been relegated in their last two Championship seasons, but took it right to the wire on both occasions.Particularly on home turf they will be a tricky opponent for all second-tier sides, even if they understandably the favourites with the bookmakers to go down.This will be a big game for Sunderland as they end August on home turf.