COVENTRY City begin their 2022/23 Sky Bet Championship campaign with a trip to newly-promoted Sunderland on Sunday with the game live on Sky Sports.
The Sky Blues have enjoyed a fine pre-season, winning all five of their first-team matches, and have managed to hold onto star players Gustavo Hamer, Callum O’Hare and Viktor Gyokeres.
City surprised many last season to finish 12th – their highest league finish in 16 years – and will hope to continue making progress under popular boss Mark Robins.
Their opponents Sunderland return to the second tier after a four-season absence and will be raring to go on home turf after earning promotion via the play-offs last term.
The Black Cats have a strong squad with the likes of Danny Batth, Corry Evans, Patrick Roberts, Jack Clarke and Ross Stewart at their disposal.
City finished last season in mixed form, failing to win any of their last four matches, whilst their last home win came back in March.
However, the Sky Blues proved difficult to beat on the road, losing one of their last six away matches, which included emphatic wins at champions Fulham and Birmingham City.
And, as mentioned above, Coventry won all of their pre-season matches, most notably beating Premier League side Nottingham Forest 3-1 in Spain.
Sunderland lost just one of their remaining 15 league matches under Alex Neil last season, after he replaced former boss Lee Johnson in February.
And they remained unbeaten throughout the play-offs but have endured a mixed pre-season wit defeats at Bradford City and Accrington Stanley before concluding their off season schedule with a draw against Hartlepool United.
The Sky Blues have made four signings ahead of the new season with Kasey Palmer the only permanent arrival as he looks to add some creativity in midfield.
Elsewhere, City have loaned in Callum Doyle, Jonathan Panzo and Tayo Adaramola from Premier League sides Manchester City, Nottingham Forest and Crystal Palace respectively.
Doyle helped Sunderland earn promotion to the second tier whilst on loan at the Stadium of Light last season and will hope to join Panzo in City’s defence following Jake Clarke-Salter’s decision to sign for Queens Park Rangers.
Teenage wing-back Adaramola arrived this week from Crystal Palace and fills the void left by Ian Maatsen who will play for Championship rivals Burnley on loan this season.
Mark Robins has kept hold of the bulk of his squad together having allowed the likes of Jordan Shipley, Jodi Jones, Declan Drysdale and Josh Pask to move on.
Sunderland have made five new additions to their squad as they look to avoid a relegation battle this season.
Their most notable arrival is winger Clarke who joined from Tottenham Hotspur on a permanent deal after spending the second half of last season on loan in Wearside.
Daniel Ballard, Leon Dajaku, Aji Alese and Alex Bass have also linked up with the Black Cats who lost the likes of Jordan Willis, Aiden McGeady and Will Grigg all of whom were released following promotion.
Coventry – Viktor Gyokeres – The striker earmarked himself as a crucial player in Robins’ side last term with 17 league goals in an impressive campaign that saw him earn international recognition with Sweden.
Gyokeres has been linked with a move away from the club this summer, but with the Swede seemingly on board, a goal on the opening day, just like he managed last season, could be a sign of things to come.
Sunderland – Ross Stewart – The two-cap Scotland international was the driving force behind the Black Cats promotion last term with 26 goals including strikes in both the play-off semi-final and final.
However, Stewart has never played in the second tier and will be desperate to prove himself at the level after finishing as joint-top goalscorer in League One.
The two teams last met in the league in March 2020 when City battled to a 1-0 win at St Andrew’s thanks to Matty Godden’s early strike on their way to winning the League One title.
Coventry’s last away win against Sunderland came back in April 2019 in a memorable 5-4 victory having drawn 1-1 on their last visit to Wearside after conceding in injury time.
City have a better overall head-to-head record against Sunderland having won 15, drawn 15 and lost 12 games across 42 meetings.
Sunderland 0-2 Coventry – Predicting the outcome of the first game of the season is never easy but, with the Sky Blues on song in pre-season, an opening day win could well be on the cards.
Coventry’s clash with Sunderland takes place on Sunday, July 31 with kick-off at 12pm at the Stadium of Light.