Every Championship club’s first five fixtures ranked by difficulty

Ben Stewart
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As the cliche goes, there are no easy games in the Championship. But it’s fair to say that some teams will be happier with their scheduled starts to the season than others…

The EFL fixture release day gets us all giddy and excited about the season to come and we can’t help ourselves but obsess over the fixture lists, totting up the number of points our team is likely to get as if we can ever accurately predict the outcome of these games in any way.

We’ve compiled each Championship club’s opening five fixtures and ranked them in terms of perceived difficulty.

 

24) Preston:
Hull (H)
Reading (A)
Huddersfield (A)
Peterborough (H)
Swansea (H)

After a disastrous start to last season, the fixture gods have been relatively kind to North End this time round.

Playing two of the newly-promoted sides at home looks decent on paper, although as we all know, nothing’s a given in this league.

 

23) Bournemouth:
West Brom (H)
Forest (A)
Birmingham (A)
Blackpool (H)
Hull (A)

Bournemouth have a tough opener at home to West Brom, but after that this doesn’t look all too bad for the Cherries.

They play two of the newly-promoted sides in Blackpool and Hull as well as Forest and Birmingham who both finished in the bottom half last season.

 

22) Barnsley:
Cardiff (A)
Coventry (H)
Luton (H)
QPR (A)
Birmingham (H)

Fresh off the back of a terrific season which saw Barnsley finish in the play-offs, this isn’t the worst start for the Tykes.

They manage to avoid any of the relegated Premier League sides in their opening five fixtures and will see this as an opportunity to start the season well.

 

21) Derby:
Huddersfield (H)
Peterborough (A)
Hull (A)
Middlesbrough (H)
Forest (H)

With Derby, things get a little bit awkward because they could still be playing their football in League One next season, with the EFL releasing two fixture lists for Derby and Wycombe in the event that a points deduction is applied to the 2020-21 season.

If they are still around to play in the Championship, that home game at Forest at the end of August could be a cracker with fans back in the ground.

 

20) Cardiff:
Barnsley (H)
Blackpool (A)
Peterborough (A)
Millwall (H)
Bristol City (H)

Cardiff don’t have an awful start here, playing two of the newly-promoted sides away from home as well as three fairly manageable home matches.

They know how important a good start will be: after they only won two of their opening nine matches last season it ultimately left them with too much ground to make up on the teams above them.

 

19) Fulham:
Middlesbrough (H)
Huddersfield (A)
Millwall (A)
Hull (H)
Stoke (H)

Fulham will be hopeful of bouncing back at the first time of asking and they have a relatively decent start here.

They avoid any of last season’s top six in their opening five fixtures and will see this as an opportunity to get off to a good start.

 

18) Swansea:
Blackburn (A)
Sheff Utd (H)
Stoke (H)
Bristol City (A)
Preston (A)

Swansea will have their sights set on a third consecutive play-off push this season and it’s not the worst start for them this season.

Apart from relegated Sheffield United, each of their other four opponents all finished in the bottom half of the Championship last season.

 

17) Millwall:
QPR (A)
Blackburn (H)
Fulham (H)
Cardiff (A)
Blackpool (H)

Millwall’s first five don’t look all too bad as they will have their sights set on a potential top-six push this year.

The fans will be eagerly awaiting a return to The Den next season to get it rocking once again.

 

16) QPR:
Millwall (H)
Hull (A)
Middlesbrough (A)
Barnsley (H)
Coventry (H)

QPR ended last season on a fine run of form and if they manage to carry that momentum through into this season, they might just be a dark horse for the top six this time round.

From their opening five there are plenty of chances to pick up points, with their toughest game looking like Barnsley at home on August 21.

 

15) Middlesbrough:
Fulham (A)
Bristol City (H)
QPR (H)
Derby (A)
Blackburn (H)

Middlesbrough start their season away at Fulham and after a tricky opening fixture the other games don’t look too tasking on paper, with three of their opening five fixtures being at home as well as a trip to Derby/Wycombe to look forward to.

 

14) Coventry:
Forest (H)
Barnsley (A)
Blackpool (A)
Reading (H)
QPR (A)

Coventry are back playing their home matches at the Ricoh Arena this season as opposed to St. Andrews and it’s a tasty looking opener at home for them against Forest.

They do have some tough matches within their first five, particularly against Barnsley, Reading and QPR who all finished in the top half last season.

 

Football-365-richo

 

13) Reading:
Stoke (A)
Preston (H)
Bristol City (H)
Coventry (A)
Huddersfield (A)

Reading got off to a storming start last season, as they won seven of their opening eight matches.

This time around they’d do well to match anything like that, although it’s not the worst start in the world – they avoid any of the relegated Premier League sides and any of last season’s top six.

 

12) Nottingham Forest:
Coventry (A)
Bournemouth (H)
Blackburn (H)
Stoke (A)
Derby (A)

Nottingham Forest fans will certainly have loftier expectations going into this season after a relatively uninspiring 2020-21 campaign which saw them finish 17th.

The game everyone will have their eyes on is Derby away on August 28, provided that the Rams are still in the Championship.

 

 

11) Peterborough:
Luton (A)
Derby (H)
Cardiff (H)
Preston (A)
West Brom (H)

Darren Ferguson will have his sights set on survival this season and there are a few opportunities for Peterborough to pick up some points early on this season.

The games against the likes of Cardiff and West Brom could be tricky, but as we saw from Peterborough last season in League One, they certainly won’t be short of firepower.

 

10) Sheffield United:
Birmingham (H)
Swansea (A)
West Brom (A)
Huddersfield (H)
Luton (A)

The Blades have a bit of a mixed bag for their start to the season, with back-to-back away matches against Swansea and West Brom looking particularly tough.

Slavisa Jokanovic will have his sights set on promotion this season and so it’s vital they get off to a good start.

 

9) Bristol City:
Blackpool (H)
Middlesbrough (A)
Reading (A)
Swansea (H)
Cardiff (A)

Bristol City ended last season in dismal form, losing seven of their last nine matches, so they will be desperate to get off to a good start this season.

The back-to-back games against Swansea and Cardiff look quite tasty towards the end of August.

 

8) Stoke:
Reading (H)
Birmingham (A)
Swansea (A)
Forest (H)
Fulham (A)

In comparison to some other sides, Stoke have a fairly tough start to the season with away matches against Fulham and Swansea looking particularly difficult.

Stoke ended last season with just one win in seven so they’ll be looking to start out on a clean slate this time round.

 

7) Luton:
Peterborough (H)
West Brom (A)
Barnsley (A)
Birmingham (H)
Sheff Utd (H)

Luton have a bit of a mixed bag here for an opening five.

They start their campaign against Peterborough at home and then have to play two of the relegated Premier League sides as well as play-off semi-finalists Barnsley.

 

6) Hull:
Preston (A)
QPR (H)
Derby (H)
Fulham (A)
Bournemouth (H)

Hull’s first game back in the Championship will be an away trip to Deepdale and on paper it does look like a relatively tough opening five for them.

The games against QPR, Fulham and Bournemouth look particularly difficult, but time will tell how they manage to readjust to life back in the Championship.

 

Football-365-Hull

 

5) Blackpool:
Bristol City (A)
Cardiff (H)
Coventry (H)
Bournemouth (A)
Millwall (A)

Blackpool are back in the Championship for the first time in over five years and they will be hoping to carry their momentum from last season into this one.

It’s a relatively difficult start for the Tangerines who play three sides who finished in the top half last season in their opening five.

 

4) West Brom:
Bournemouth (A)
Luton (H)
Sheff Utd (H)
Blackburn (A)
Peterborough (A)

The Baggies have a few tricky opening fixtures up against Bournemouth on the opening day and fellow relegated side Sheffield United.

But they will see this as a good opportunity to get some points on the board early on and challenge for promotion as they are expected to do.

 

3) Huddersfield:
Derby (A)
Fulham (H)
Preston (H)
Sheff Utd (A)
Reading (H)

Huddersfield have an opening day fixture away at Derby or Wycombe, depending on the EFL’s outcome.

After that they do have a tough start, playing two of the relegated Premier League sides in Fulham and Sheffield United.

 

2) Blackburn:
Swansea (H)
Millwall (A)
Forest (A)
West Brom (H)
Middlesbrough (A)

Blackburn have one of the toughest starts, with an opener against last season’s play-off finalists Swansea followed by trips to The Den and City Ground.

Rovers were in fine goalscoring form at the start of last season and they’ll need to be sharp in front of goal again with these tough fixtures.

 

1) Birmingham:
Sheff United (A)
Stoke (H)
Bournemouth (H)
Luton (A)
Barnsley (A)

Lee Bowyer did a wonderful job at Birmingham towards the end of the season to comfortably guide them to safety, but there’s no getting away from this being a really tough opening set of fixtures.

They play Barnsley and Bournemouth who both finished in the top six last season, as well as travelling to Bramall Lane on the opening day to face Sheffield United.