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Next season’s EFL fixtures – the talking points

The stories behind the 2018/19 fixtures.

Being Frank – Rams have the chance to get off on the right foot

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The early season fixtures appear to have been kind to Frank Lampard (Simon Cooper/PA).

Frank Lampard has a good chance to make an early impact with Derby. The early-season fixtures appear kind to the former England midfielder – with a trip to Millwall arguably their toughest test in the first quarter of the campaign. However, it gets notably tougher between then and Christmas, with the trio relegated from the Premier League, Middlesbrough, Aston Villa and arch-rivals Nottingham Forest lined up.

Bielsa blubs?

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New Leeds coach Marcelo Bielsa faces a challenging start (Nigel French/PA).

In contrast to Lampard, Marcelo Bielsa’s start at Leeds is challenging.  They go to Derby in their second game and also have three of last season’s top eight in their first eight games, with newly-relegated Stoke and Swansea part of that challenging run. Argentinian Bielsa has previous for not hanging around long – and a poor early-season points return may increase the pressure on him.

Moore the merrier

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Darren Moore will be hoping to continue his good work at The Hawthorns (Anthony Devlin/PA).

Darren Moore appears to have been dealt a fair hand as he bids to continue the good work which almost kept West Brom in the Premier League and earned him the Hawthorns top job on a permanent basis.  The first four games,  against Bolton, Nottingham Forest, Norwich and QPR could be tougher, while the trickiest challenge of Albion’s run-in appears to be the last-day trip to Derby.  If Moore can hit the ground running, the outcome of that match may not be significant.

Barton’s challenge starts

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Joey Barton’s appointment as Flletwood boss will increase interest in their results next season (Nick Potts/PA).

“When you’ve been through what I’ve been through, losing football games is not necessarily the end of the universe,” said new Fleetwood boss Joey Barton after signing a three-year deal. There will be plenty of attention on the widely-travelled midfielder in his first managerial role – and home games against Wimbledon and Rochdale  sandwiching a trip to Oxford giving him a good chance to make the right early impression.

Wear on the up?

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Sunderland fans will be hoping for significantly better times after two desperate campaigns (Dave Howarth/PA).

Only once in their 139-year history have Sunderland found themselves in the third tier of English football – and they got straight out of it as champions in 1987-88.  The bookmakers have them as strong favourites to repeat the trick and, under new leadership, fans will be hoping the final day trip to Southend provides a jolly-up – but if the misery of the last two seasons continues, there could be a funereal atmosphere in the away end at Roots Hall on May 4.

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