The English football league season kicks off as Sunderland take on Derby County at The Stadium of Light.
English Championship Friday 4th August – 19:45 UK Time
Best Odd of: 11/8 at Ladbrokes
Best Odd of: 11/5 at Ladbrokes
Best Odd of: 2/1 at Ladbrokes
Sunderland had a torrid season in 2016/17, spending all but two weeks in the relegation zone and finishing bottom of the Premier League with only six wins from their 38 games.
Relegation from the top flight ended David Moyes’ short reign as manager, with Simon Grayson taking charge as the club prepare for life in the second tier of English football.
Pre-season has been mildly successful, with them winning four, drawing two, and losing two of their eight friendly matches. The biggest defeat was also the most recent, with a 5-0 loss to Scottish champions Celtic last week.
There have been a few major changes in playing personnel, with number one goalkeeper Jordan Pickford moving to Everton for £30 million and top scorer Jermain Defoe joining Bournemouth. Number two goalkeeper Vito Mannone also departed, along with Seb Larsson, Jan Kirchhoff, and Steven Pienaar.
Sunderland have brought in players, although their total spend is less than £2 million. Aiden McGeady, James Vaughan, and Lewis Grabban will hope to improve the attack, whilst Jason Steele will be looking to establish himself as number one goalkeeper.
Special Ladbrokes Offer for the Game
Derby County didn’t perform as expected last season, finishing ninth place in the Championship and seeing two changes in management.
After finishing fifth, and losing out via the Play-Offs, in 2015/16, a lot was expected of them. However, they got off to an awful start with just one win from their first nine matches and they were playing catch up from then on.
Gary Rowett will hope to find a little stability, and consistency, at the club as he prepares his team to once again challenge for promotion.
Pre-season started well enough, with four wins and a draw from five friendlies, but two defeats in four days has hampered their preparations somewhat.
Derby are another team who lost key players in this transfer window, with Will Hughes joining Watford, Tom Ince moving to newly-promoted Huddersfield Town, and Republic of Ireland international Cyrus Christie moving to Middlesbrough.
Oddly enough, they have chosen to strengthen defensively. Only three teams conceded less than Derby last season, but their only signings so far have been Curtis Davies, Tom Huddlestone, and Andre Wisdom. Although they are all good signings, they could have perhaps done with extra attacking options.
Head to Head
Since 1902, Sunderland and Derby County have met 89 times. Derby hold a slender advantage with 36 wins, Sunderland have 34 victories, and there have been 19 draws.
Derby may hold a head to head advantage, but they haven’t beaten Sunderland since February 2001.
Sunderland are on an eleven-game unbeaten run against Derby, with six wins and five draws.
The most recent meeting was a friendly in 2012, which finished 1-1.
Betting Odds and Predictions
The bookmakers have this match evenly matched, which is reflected in the betting odds. Sunderland are a slight favourite, with Ladbrokes offering 11/8 on them picking up a victory. Derby are 2/1, and the draw is priced at 11/5.
Both sides have lost attacking players during the summer, with Sunderland the only team of the two to sign any replacements. For that reason, we think Sunderland will start their first season in the second tier since 2006/07 with a win.
Having mentioned attacking football, let’s look at the Over/Under and Both Teams to Score markets.
Nine of the last twelve meetings between these sides have had less than three goals, and they are both better defensively than they are going forward. So, Under 2.5 Goals is our recommendation at odds of 7/10. If you disagree with us, you can back Over 2.5 at 11/10.
Under 3.5 is priced at 1/4, which whilst not providing much value could give punters an extremely good chance of making a profit.
Both teams have only scored in one of the last three meetings and, as we think this will be a low-scoring and nervy opening match of the season, there’s a big chance only one team will find the net here.
Backing ‘NO’ in the Both Teams to Score market is priced at 19/20, with ‘Yes’ at odds of 5/6.
Top Betting Tip
Our top betting tip for this match is a Sunderland win, priced at 11/8 with Ladbrokes. They have added attacking options, which Derby have failed to do, and that could be the main difference between them come the final whistle.