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Hull City manager Grant McCann believes Saturday’s EFL Cup opponents Sunderland will be one of the favourites to secure promotion from League One this season after some impressive recruitment, he told the Sunderland Echo.

While the Black Cats have been left frustrated in their pursuit of Luke Garbutt, Scott Fraser and Danny Graham, thanks in part to a salary cap that restricts League One clubs to spending £2.5 million a year on wages, Phil Parkinson’s side do have a couple of new faces.

In Aiden O’Brien, Remi Matthews and Bailey Wright, Sunderland have snapped up a trio of proven third-tier performers without spending a penny in transfer fees.

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Morgan Feeney, a former Everton U23 captain, has also arrived on a free while a deal to sign Kosovo international Arbenit Xhemajli is also edging closer.

Sunderland will get their 2020/21 campaign under way against Hull this weekend in the EFL Cup first round. And this could be just one of a trio of high-pressure clashes between two of the favourites for the League One title.

“You would have thought so,” former Peterborough boss McCann said when asked whether Sunderland could fight for the crown. “They’re always up there.

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“Sunderland will be in and around it for sure, so this will give us a good marker. They’ve got a strong squad and have strengthened well.”

The Black Cats have also enjoyed a positive pre-season, with £4 million striker Will Grigg showing some semblance of sharpness after 18 miserable months on Wearside.

And, in Dan Neil and Jack Diamond, Parkinson appears to have stumbled across two of the most exciting teenage talents in the lower leagues.

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