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 with 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, Sunderland will host the appetising fixture first in the new campaign.
Manager of the Year Alan Pardew is set to bring the Magpies to the Stadium of Light on October 20, with Sunderland making the trip to Tyneside on April 13.
The new season starts later than usual and correspondingly ends later than normal too – that Spurs fixture not coming until 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 the 15th 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 fixtures start which could see them accumulate a decent points total.
Undoubtedly the most challenging period for them comes in December, when Sunderland face Chelsea, Man United, Man City, Tottenham and Liverpool over the course of little more than three weeks.
Man City come to the Stadium of Light on Boxing Day and the Wearsiders face Liverpool at Anfield on New Year’s Day.
SEE Monday’s Hartlepool Mail for full fixture list