2017-18 Fixtures: Opening month offers new Leeds United boss Thomas Christiansen snapshot of task ahead

Leeds United head coach, Thomas Christiansen at Elland Road. PIC: Bruce Rollinson
Leeds United head coach, Thomas Christiansen at Elland Road. PIC: Bruce Rollinson
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Thomas Christiansen is new to the Championship but not unfamiliar with the pressure of the schedule in it. In Cyprus last season he and APOEL contested no fewer than 60 competitive games in five domestic and European tournaments, ending with the Cypriot Cup final on May 24.

Leeds United’s head coach has a sole focus this year, as coaches in the Championship do, but the task for him with the new fixtures announced is to familiarise himself with the competition in the division rather than the intensity of it. Christiansen and APOEL began Champions League qualifiers as early as last July. They were still fighting on two fronts after United’s season had ground to a halt.

The 2017-18 fixture list which the EFL published yesterday morning will give Christiansen – the coach appointed as Garry Monk’s replacement at Elland Road last week – a quick education about the range of clubs around him in the league.

In August, Leeds start with a televised match away at newly-promoted Bolton Wanderers and a home game against a club in Preston North End who kept pace with the top six until April. The month throws up a meeting with Fulham, who qualified for the play-off semi-finals, and a visit to a relegated side in Sunderland. The last fixture, at Nottingham Forest on August 26, is away to a club who fended off relegation on the final day.

For Christiansen, those initial five fixtures offer a spectrum of the Championship and an immediate examination of his ability to adapt to it. Leeds are still to announce any pre-season games amid a delay in confirming the details of a planned tour to Austria but the Dane will have the whole of the summer to prepare for a campaign in which he intends to improve on Leeds’ seventh-placed finish under Monk.

United’s players are due to undergo tests at Thorp Arch tomorrow before starting fitness work on Monday. “Bolton away will be a tough start,” Christiansen said, “but we will be ready. From the moment the players start training on Monday we will have our sights set on August 6. We want to start with a win.”

History tells United’s head coach not to rush into categorising the fixture list into favourable and difficult months. Leeds, on paper, were given a reasonable start last season and a relatively helpful run in under Monk. August yielded only four points and April just as few, top-and-tailing an otherwise impressive term and condeming Leeds to a position outside the play-offs.

United’s away form crept up on Monk too, showing two wins from 11 games in the second half of the season. United’s away schedule after Christmas this time pulls in a number of clubs who are fancied to compete for promotion: Hull City, Derby County, Middlesbrough, Reading, Fulham, Aston Villa and Norwich City. Consistency in those matches will pay if United remain as strong at Elland Road as they were in 2016-17.

There are parts of the 2017-18 fixture list which look particularly key: three successive home games against Villa, Norwich and Hull in December and a spell in April where Leeds travel to Fulham, Villa and Norwich in amongst games against Sunderland, Barnsley and Preston. Monk, meanwhle, makes his return to Elland Road as Middlesbrough on November 18, six months after quitting as United head coach and making way for Christiansen.

Monk insisted last month that he was not concerned about the reaction of Leeds’ supporters to his controversial decision to walk out and take charge at The Riverside. “That doesn’t matter,” he said. “People will have different opinions. My only focus is Middlesbrough.”

Christiansen’s first taste of a Yorkshire derby comes away at Sheffield Wednesday on September 30 – the scene of Monk’s maiden league win as United boss – and will be followed quickly by a first meeting with Sheffield United for more than six years. Hull are the opposition in the last match before Christmas, at Elland Road on December 23. By then it should be clear if Christiansen has the measure of the Championship and whether Leeds are in the running again.

August

6 Bolton Wanderers A

12 Preston North End H

15 Fulham H

19 Sunderland A

26 Nottingham Forest A

September

9 Burton Albion H

12 Birmingham City H

16 Millwall A

23 Ipswich Town H

26 Cardiff City A

30 Sheffield Wednesday A

October

14 Reading H

21 Bristol City A

28 Sheffield United H

31 Derby County H

November

4 Brentford A

18 Middlesbrough H

21 Wolves A

25 Barnsley A

December

2 Aston Villa H

9 Queens Park Rangers A

16 Norwich City H

23 Hull City H

26 Burton Albion A

30 Birmingham City A

January

1 Nottingham Forest H

13 Ipswich Town A

20 Millwall H

27 Hull City A

February

3 Cardiff City H

10 Sheffield United A

17 Bristol City H

20 Derby County A

24 Brentford H

March

3 Middlesbrough A

6 Wolves H

10 Reading A

17 Sheffield Wednesday H

31 Bolton Wanderers H

April

2 Fulham A

7 Sunderland H

10 Preston North End A

14 Aston Villa A

21 Barnsley H

28 Norwich City A

May

6 QPR H

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