Wednesday 22 November 2017

Troubled Cats to face Derby in opener

Derby boss Gary Rowett. Pic: PA Wire
Derby boss Gary Rowett. Pic: PA Wire

Sunderland's quest to return to the Premier League at the first attempt will begin a day earlier than their Championship rivals.

The relegated Black Cats, up for sale, without a manager and in possession of a thinning squad, will kick-off the new English Football League season on Friday, August 4 at home to Gary Rowett's Derby.

North-east neighbours Middlesbrough, also relegated but quickly looking forward under new boss Garry Monk, head to Wolves, also under new management in the form of Nuno Espirito Santo.

Hull, the other side to go down and now under the care of Russian Leonid Slutsky, are away to Aston Villa, managed by their former boss Steve Bruce.

New Leeds manager Thomas Christiansen - Monk's replacement after his shock resignation - will start life in England at promoted Bolton on the Sunday, while fellow new boys Sheffield United are at home to Brentford and Millwall head to Nottingham Forest.

Play-off final losers Reading start at QPR, while beaten semi-finalists Sheffield Wednesday and Fulham are away to Preston and at home to Norwich, under new boss Daniel Farke, respectively.

Elsewhere, Bristol City host Barnsley, Burton welcome Cardiff and Birmingham go to Ipswich.

The Sheffield derby returns after a five-year absence, with Wednesday and United meeting at Hillsborough on September 23, while Monk's November 18 return to Elland Road will be keenly noted. In League One, Blackburn start life in the third tier for the first time in 37 years with a long trip to Southend on August 5, with fellow relegated sides Rotherham and Wigan also starting on the road at Fleetwood and MK Dons.

Of the sides to come up, Portsmouth, under the new management of Kenny Jackett, kick-off at home to Rochdale, Doncaster host Gillingham and Plymouth head to Peterborough. Play-off winners Blackpool are at Bradford, who lost the League One final.

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