Sam Allardyce is focused on Sunderland beginning the campaign on the front foot after the release of the Premier League fixture list.
Sunderland spent all of last season playing catch-up on their Premier League peers after a dreadful start saw them register just three points from the opening nine games.
Eventually, Sunderland were able to bridge their gap with those alongside them at the wrong end of the table, yet it took until the final week of the season for the Black Cats to secure their top flight survival.
Allardyce was faced with that uphill challenge of reversing Sunderland’s fortunes when he succeeded Dick Advocaat after just eight games, and is determined to avoid a repeat scenario.
And while the first two games against title favourites Manchester City and neighbours Middlesbrough are challenging ones on paper, they are encounters which the Sunderland boss is relishing.
“We have a tough start, facing Manchester City in Pep Guardiola’s first game on the opening day of the season, but it’s definitely a fixture we’ll be looking forward to, you’ve got to relish these games,” he told the club website.
“Meanwhile Middlesbrough in the first home game is a great fixture.
“We know we need to start better than we did last season and everything we do in pre-season will be geared towards making that happen.
“There’s only a couple of weeks to go until the players return for training and then the hard work will begin.”