Chris Young: Pep Guardiola debut begins a tough start to the season for Sunderland

Pep Guardiola
Pep Guardiola
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Hold your horses, those of you contemplating travelling to the Etihad to witness Sunderland's opening skirmish of the 2016-17 campaign.

Diaries were inked, train tickets purchased and Travelodge bookings scoured after the release of the fixtures this morning, yet there is minimal chance of Sunderland's curtain raiser at Manchester City being a 3pm kick-off on Saturday, August 13.

Sunderland will be the supporting cast in the Pep Show on the opening day, and the television companies will be salivating at the prospect of broadcasting the first Premier League encounter for the new Manchester City manager.

There's an inevitability that it will be one of those selected when Sky and BT announce their first televised games.

But it's not necessarily the worse time for Sunderland to be facing the early favourites with the bookmakers for the Premier League crown.

Pep Guardiola will have had little chance to stamp his authority on his new charges by that early stage of his reign - merely a month or so of pre-season to mould City into the seamlessly slick side witnessed at Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

That's the straw which will be clutched over the next couple of months anyway.

There's no getting away from the difficulty of Sunderland's start to the campaign, and it doesn't get a lot easier over a daunting opening month.

Facing a newly-promoted team early on in the season is always a challenge, and Boro will be doubly motivated in the Stadium of Light's curtain-raiser for the first Premier League Wear-Tees derby in seven-and-a-half years.

Then there's two sides who will have new managers at the helm in Southampton and Everton, followed by a trip to title hopefuls Spurs.

Hmmm.

Sam Allardyce is facing an uphill challenge to win one of Sunderland's five opening fixtures for the first time since 2012-13.

But if Sunderland can come firing out of the blocks, then the remainder of the fixture list is largely free from banana skins, well, other than a final day trip to Chelsea.

There are no sustained periods of tough games, as there was last season with a festive triple header of Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool, and then again in February with Man United, Liverpool and Man City.

If Sunderland can ruin the Guardiola love-in, there is half-a-chance to build some solid foundations and avoid the misery of four successive narrow scrapes from relegation.