Sunderland v Derby preview: Championship opener live on Sky Sports Football on Friday night
Last Updated: 04/08/17 7:47pm
Jason Steele is set for his Sunderland bow in the season-opening clash against Derby, live on Sky Sports Football, with fellow goalkeeper Robbin Ruiter unlikely to be risked.
Both are new arrivals following Jordan Pickford's departure to Everton but Ruiter has been short of training time and is likely to take bench duty in Simon Grayson's first game in charge.
Paddy McNair and Duncan Watmore both remain sidelined for several weeks with the knee injuries that blighted them last season, while 18-year-old Josh Maja and Bryan Oviedo also miss out. Jack Rodwell is in contention after a full week of training and there should be debuts for Aiden McGeady and Lewis Grabban.
Derby will be without Darren Bent until around Christmas time after the striker suffered a hamstring injury in a pre-season game at Port Vale last month.
Midfielder George Thorne, who missed the whole of last season with a broken leg, is also out with a hamstring problem sustained during the summer while central defender Jason Shackell (back) and left-back Max Lowe (abdomen) remain hampered by injuries carried over from the last campaign.
Forwards Matej Vydra and Nick Blackman will be assessed before the squad travels north. New signings Curtis Davies, Andre Wisdom and Tom Huddlestone are all in contention to start.
Sunderland have gone seven games without victory on the opening day of the season, drawing four and losing three.
Derby have won four and lost none of their last eight league games on the opening weekend of the campaign.
Gary Rowett is unbeaten in his last four opening day games as a manager (W2 D2).
Derby will play Sunderland on the opening day for the eighth time; only three fixtures have been played more frequently as a season opener in the Football League (Everton v Spurs 10, Blackburn v Derby 9, and Middlesbrough v Portsmouth 9).
The Black Cats are unbeaten in 10 league meetings with the Rams, winning six and drawing four.
Grayson is looking to become the first Sunderland manager to win his first game in charge since Martin O'Neill in December 2011 - each of the last five have all lost their maiden games (Paolo Di Canio, Gus Poyet, Dick Advocaat, Sam Allardyce and David Moyes).
What a cracker of an opening game of the season this should be! Gary Rowett has had a bit of time now to look at his Derby squad, he's lost a couple and brought a couple in who should do well like Tom Huddlestone and Curtis Davies.
It's a tough fixture for Sunderland, there's been a lot made about the changes there and it'll be interesting to see how they get on after being relegated. But I fancy Derby to lay down an early marker.
David Prutton predicts: 1-2 with Chris Martin to score first (40/1 with Sky Bet)