In Brief

Championship fixtures 2017-18: Next season's key derby dates

After a quiet start, fans can look forward to local rivals clashing almost every weekend

Sunderland and Derby County kick off next season's Championship on the evening of Friday 4 August, reveals the newly released fixture list.

Aston Villa and newly relegated Middlesbrough are favourites for the title, with the bookies also expecting to see a promotion push from Fulham and Sheffield Wednesday, who made the play-offs last season, as well as Norwich, Derby and another relegated team - Hull City.

The Championship has earned its reputation as the hardest division to get out of, partly down to the number of local derbies that take place every year.

So when are the big showdowns in the opening weeks of next season?

While the first month of the season features a few cross-Pennine clashes and a smattering of Midlands match-ups, there are no major showdowns between long-standing and bitter rivals.

That might be good for managers hoping to bed their teams down, but once autumn arrives so do the games with bite.

16 September: Millwall vs Leeds

This isn't a local derby by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a clash between two sides with a long history of mutual dislike and a lawless reputation to match.

This match comes four days after Leeds play Birmingham and Millwall take on QPR in the first all-London game of the season, so both teams will be warmed up and ready to go.

The first of several north-east derbies takes place on the same date, with Sunderland visiting Hull.

23 September: Sheffield Wednesday vs Sheffield United

The first real derby doesn't arrive until the eighth match of the season, when Sheffield United make the short trip across the city to Hillsborough. The steel-city derby is one of the oldest in football and dates back to 1890.

30 September: QPR vs Fulham

A week after the showdown in Sheffield, the action switches to west London as Fulham visit their neighbours QPR.

14 October: Derby County vs Nottingham Forest

This is perhaps one of the most poisonous rivalries in English football and a must-win game for both. Derby are tipped to challenge this season, so Forest will be desperate to get one over on them at Pride Park.

21 October: Ipswich Town vs Norwich City

A week after the East Midlands derby comes the East Anglia affair, which some believe registers even higher on the footballing Richter scale. Referee Keith Hackett once said this game was the most intimidating to officiate.

28 October: Birmingham City vs Aston Villa

If the previous weeks were febrile, the clash at St Andrews on 29 October could top the lot as Birmingham take on their hated rivals Villa. The former European champions have fallen on hard times and Harry Redknapp's Blues will be determined to kick them when they are down.

4 October: Middlesbrough vs Sunderland

The last of the major derbies comes two months after the start of the season, with two clubs relegated from the Premier League last season meeting on Teesside. It's not the first north-east clash of the season but the rivalry between these sides eclipses their dislike of Hull.

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