Sunderland's 2017/18 fixtures: 10 things we learned from the release

Sunderland face a tough start to the campaign
Sunderland face a tough start to the campaign
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Sunderland's fixtures have been released as they face up to their first Championship challenge since the 2006/7 campaign.

Here's what we learned from the announcement this morning:

1. A tough start and an early reunion

A tough start to the season for Sunderland with a home game against Gary Rowett's Derby County on Friday August 4th. The Rams may well have fallen short in recent seasons but have a squad packed with pace and creativity. Have made a solid start to their summer transfer business and will punish the Black Cats if they are undercooked as they have been in recent seasons. Darren Bent could well be leading the line for the visitors.

2. It only gets tougher from there

There is no respite in August with a brutal set of opening fixtures.

That challenging first night is followed by away trips to Norwich City and Sheffield Wednesday, two sides certain to be in the play-off mix at the very least. Both already have stability and strength in depth over a month before the campaign begins.

Leeds United may be something of an unknown quantity under former Barcelona striker Thomas Christiansen but that also promises to be a tough game, with the month ending at one of the surprise packages of last season, Barnsley.

In short, Sunderland will face four of the favourites for promotion in their opening five games.

3. Bury game will also be televised

Sunderland's Carabao Cup first round game, away at Bury, will also be televised having being confirmed to take place on Thursday 10th August.

That could force a reschedule of the away trip to Norwich, currently due to take place two days later.

4. A particularly cruel away trip

Sunderland will have to make the five hour journey to Portman Road on a Tuesday night. The Black Cats face Mick McCarthy's Ipswich Town on September 26. Not a fixture designed with the travelling support in mind, who will wearily be getting their holiday request in.

With another away trip to Preston North End on the following Saturday, it will be a long week for all involved with the Black Cats.

5. A kinder festive period

The festive period should offer some respite for both the team and fans.

Sunderland have a 3pm home game against Birmingham City on December 23rd, with a relatively forgiving 2 hour trip to Bramall Lane on Boxing Day.

It is then a three hour trip to Nottingham Forest on the 30th, with Barnsley at home on New Year's Day.

A hectic period that can make or break their season, Sunderland will hope to cash in and should see some superb support both home and away.

6. Two Saturday derbies - though they may be subject to change

Sunderland will have to make do without a showpiece derby game this season but the clashes against Middlesbrough should be keenly contested affairs.

Both currently sit as Saturday afternoon kick-offs, with the Black Cats travelling to the Riverside on November 4th, the return fixture taking place at the Stadium of Light on February 24th.

Both games could be prime candidates for TV coverage, however.

7. February could be crucial

Opportunity knocks in February.

Before that Middlesbrough game Sunderland have four winnable games, starting with Ipswich at home.

They then face Bristol City, Brentford and Bolton, an opportunity to build momentum.

A promotion push currently looks a distant dream but this month will be crucial if there is to be one.

8. An away day that will be in high demand

Burton's Pirelli Stadium is the only ground that Sunderland will be visiting for the first time.

That, as well as its standing terrace for away fans and nearby brewery, should make it a game high in demand for the Black Cats faithful.

Sunderland face the Brewers, led by Nigel Clough, on November 25th.

9. A mixed run-in

Sunderland end the season at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers.

How Wolves will fare remains to be seen, having recently confirmed the impressive appointment of former Valencia and Porto boss Nuno.

A tough trip to Craven Cottage precedes that clash with Burton Albion the visitors on April 21st.

10. Famous away days to look forward to once more

The season looks challenging at the moment with ownership and managerial uncertainty, but there are a number of away days to relish.

After long absences Sunderland will once again to travel to some of the famous grounds of British football.

Nottingham Forest's City Ground, Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough, Elland Road and many more.