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James Hunter & James Chittick

Sunderland have one of the easiest starts to the Championship season - at least on paper

Sunderland can look forward to an easy start to their Championship campaign - statistically, at least. The 2023-24 EFL fixtures were published on Thursday, marking an important milestone in the build-up to the new season.

The Black Cats will take on newly-promoted Ipswich Town at the Stadium of Light on the opening weekend in the first of four league games in August. How each club fares in that initial block of fixtures will offer an early clue as to who has had the best pre-season, the strongest transfer window, and the most beneficial summer break.

Of course, much will depend on just who teams face in that initial four-game spell. And, crunching the numbers, Sunderland have an easier start than the vast majority of their Championship rivals.

READ MORE: Sunderland confirm signing of Jenson Seelt from PSV

Following that first game against Ipswich in front of the TV cameras on Sunday, August 6, Tony Mowbray's side will head to Preston North End the following Saturday, and then host Rotherham United and travel to Coventry City on the subsequent weekends before the end of the month Their opponents' average finishing position last season was 15.5, giving Sunderland the sixth-easiest start to the season on paper.

For the purposes of the calculation, teams were ranked in order based on last season's finishing position, with the relegated Premier League sides highest and newly-promoted former League One sides lowest Under that system, former Swansea boss and newly-appointed Southampton manager, Russell Martin, has been handed the easiest start on paper.

The relegated Saints' first season in the second tier since 2011-12 starts with a trip to promoted Sheffield Wednesday, before hosting Norwich City, then meeting Plymouth Argyle at Home Park and then entertaining Queens Park Rangers That gives their opponents an average finishing position last year of 21.3, the lowest figure for any club in the Championship this coming season.

Following Southampton, Leeds United, another relegated Premier League side, have the next easiest start The Yorkshire club host Cardiff City, then travel to Birmingham City before playing West Brom at Elland Road and then Ipswich Town at Portman Road, with their opponents averaging a league position of 18.3 last year.

After Leeds, the easiest starts on paper go to Watford (17.0), Stoke City (16.0), Leicester City (15.8), and then Sunderland At the other end of the scale, last season's losing play-off finalists Coventry City have the toughest start to the season.

The Sky Blues travel to recently relegated Leicester City on the opening day, before facing Middlesbrough at home, then playing Swansea City away and Sunderland at home That gives their opposition an average league position of 4.5 last season, higher than that of any other team in the league.

They are followed by West Brom (average league position 5.0), Rotherham (6.8), Huddersfield Town and Middlesbrough (both 10.0).

Club Av League Pos Opponents

Coventry City


Leicester (a), Middlesbrough (h), Swansea (a), Sunderland (h)

West Bromwich Albion


Blackburn (a), Swansea (h), Leeds (a), Middlesbrough (h)

Rotherham United


Stoke (a), Blackburn (h), Sunderland (a), Leicester (h)

Huddersfield Town


Plymouth (a), Leicester (h), Middlesbrough (a), Norwich (h)

Middlesbrough 10.0

Millwall (h), Coventry (a), Huddersfield (h), West Brom (a)

Ipswich Town 10.3

Sunderland (a), Stoke City (h), QPR (a), Leeds United (h)

Norwich City 10.3

Hull (h), Southampton (a), Millwall (h), Huddersfield (a)

Swansea City 10.8

Birmingham (h), West Brom (a), Coventry (h), Preston NE (a)

Cardiff City 11.0

Leeds (a), QPR (h), Leicester (a), Sheff Wed (h)

Plymouth Argyle 11.5

Huddersfield (h), Watford (a), Southampton (h), Birmingham (a)

Millwall 11.8

Middlesbrough (a), Bristol City (h), Norwich (a), Stoke (h)

Birmingham City 12.0

Swansea (a), Leeds (h), Bristol City (a), Plymouth (h)

Sheffield Wednesday 12.0

Southampton (h), Hull (a), Preston NE (h), Cardiff (a)

Bristol City 13.0

Preston NE (h), Millwall (a), Birmingham (h), Hull (a)

Blackburn Rovers 13.5

West Brom (h), Rotherham (a), Hull (h), Watford (a)

Preston North End 14.3

Bristol City (a), Sunderland (h), Sheff Wed (a), Swansea (h)

Queens Park Rangers 14.5

Watford (h), Cardiff (a), Ipswich (h), Southampton (a)

Hull City 15.3

Norwich (a), Sheff Wed (h), Blackburn (a), Bristol City (h)

Sunderland 15.5

Ipswich (h), Preston NE (a), Rotherham (h), Coventry (a)

Leicester City 15.8

Coventry (h), Huddersfield (a), Cardiff (h), Rotherham (a)

Stoke City 16.0

Rotherham (h), Ipswich (a), Watford (h), Millwall (a)

Watford 17.0

QPR (a), Plymouth (h), Stoke (a), Blackburn (h)

Leeds United 18.3

Cardiff (h), Birmingham (a), West Brom (h), Ipswich (a)

Southampton 21.3

Sheff Wed (a), Norwich (h), Plymouth (a), QPR (h)

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