Sunderland to kick-off new season away at Arsenal

Fulham's Danny Murphy tackles Sunderland's Stephane Sessegnon.
Fulham's Danny Murphy tackles Sunderland's Stephane Sessegnon.
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SUNDERLAND’S 2012-13 campaign will begin and end in London, with the Wearsiders travelling to the Emirates and Arsenal on the opening day of the campaign and returning to the capital in May to face Spurs.

The Arsenal game on Saturday, August 18, will be a massive challenge for Martin O’Neill’s men – the resurgent Gunners finishing third in the Premier League last season – but Sunderland’s first home game could also prove to be a testing one, Championship winners Reading coming to the Stadium of Light on Saturday, August 25.

Sunderland will hope they can prosper against a side who were playing their football in the second tier of the English game last season, and go on to make a solid start with winnable games against Swansea, West Ham and Wigan to follow in the opening couple of months of the season.

The eyes of many fans on Tyneside and Wearside will have searched instantly for the derby games when the new season fixtures were released this morning and, like last season, the first clash between the sides will be at the Stadium of Light.

Alan Pardew will bring the Magpies to Sunderland on October 20, with Sunderland making the trip to the Sports Direct Arena on April 13.

The final game of the season, away to Spurs will be played on Sunday, May 19.

But while a trip to White Hart Lane is likely to be a difficult way to end the campaign, Sunderland will hope that games against Aston Villa, Stoke and Southampton immediately beforehand will help them get points in the bag.

Games against the big boys are generally few and far between in the opening months of the season – Sunderland host Liverpool on September 15 and there is a trip to Premier League champions Manchester City on October 6 – and the good news for Sunderland fans is that the Black Cats do have a decent opening to the campaign which could see them start to accumulate a decent points total.

Undoubtedly the most challenging period comes in December, when Sunderland face Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City and Tottenham, with an away trip to Liverpool on January 1.

Manchester City are the Boxing Day visitors to the Stadium of Light, where they suffered a defeat last season thanks to a last-gasp Ji Dong-won goal.

What do you think of the new fixtures? Send you thoughts to @sunechograeme.