Sheffield United: On paper, this looks like being the toughest and most important month of Sheffield United's season
December will be difficult, with Cardiff City, Queens Park Rangers, Fulham and Preston North End all on the agenda before they sign-off the year with a Yorkshire derby against Hull City.
But April looks set to be a particularly arduous for a Sheffield United side which, having appointed Slavisa Jokanovic as their new manager, are hoping to make an immediate return to the top-flight after being relegated from the Premier League last term,
After ending March with a clash against Barnsley, United are scheduled to play six times in only 29 days during the final full month of the 2021/22 Championship campaign. Possibly more if they reach the later stages of the FA Cup, although that is unlikely to be a priority for the Serb.
And, at least on paper, all of those assignments appear tough. Some are likely to test United’s physicality and tactical discipline. Others, their ability to stand toe to toe with some of the best players in the division.
The first of those awkward half a dozen games comes against a Stoke City side which, despite being destined to part company with some of their biggest names, are still likely to boast plenty of nous and experience.
Then, after travelling to the bet365 Stadium, United welcome AFC Bournemouth to South Yorkshire. Their preparations for the new season have been less than perfect, with doubts about the make-up of their coaching staff proving a distraction. But by the time United travel south, the disappointment of losing in the play-offs last term will have dissipated and owner Maxim Demin expects his club to go up.
The Bank Holiday period pits United against Reading and Bristol City, who will both fancy their chances of gatecrashing the top six party. The fast turnaround could force Jokanovic to make changes at Ashton Gate, where former Sheffield Wednesday favourite Nigel Pearson is in charge.
Then United meet Cardiff City. The Welshmen improved under Mick McCarthy last term, before tailing-off when it mattered most. But McCarthy is a shrewd operator and, having spent the summer drilling his squad, Cardiff are expected to be much more durable this time around.
The potentially pivotal period concludes with a clash against Queens Park Rangers, who will be keen to put on a show during their final home match of the season.