The day when the Premier League fixtures are released, manages to stir emotions and opinions almost as football itself. In truth, today was nothing more than a small appettiser, to whet our collective appetite for five minutes, before letting us back in the real world – a world in which there are still 59 days to go until the 2013-14 season kicks off.
Drawing predictions based on the fixtures’ list is as inevitable as it is pointless, particularly the myriad of factors that could change over the next two months – transfers, injuries, new Directors of Football being appointed, to name only but a few – but we all love a bit of speculation, don’t we?
Here’s our recap.
Come August 17, everyone’s attention will be on two men – Jose Mourinho and David Moyes. The Portuguese’s second spell at Chelsea begins with a home game against newly promoted Hull, while David Moyes faces a trip to Swansea in his first game in charge of Manchester United.
United and Chelsea share the best record on opening days, having won 62% of their fixtures, while Southampton have only won 7% of their opening games. Special mention to newly promoted Cardiff City who make their Premier League debut away against West Ham and to Manuel Pellegrini who makes his debut in charge of Manchester City.
United host Chelsea on the second weekend of the season, Moyes’ first game at Old Trafford, before traveling to Liverpool and City in the space of three weeks. August 31 sees the first North London derby of the season, with Arsenal hosting Spurs, while a month later Jose Mourinho takes on fellow Portuguese AVB at White Hart Lane.
October offers a tasty Sunderland – Newcastle and, presumably, by then Paolo Di Canio will have racked up a laundry bill in the excess of £5,000 after some trademark knee-sliding. Will Pardew be still in charge by then, or will every Newcastle fan’s worst nightmare come true and will Joe “fit as a fiddle” Kinnear move from the corridor to the dugout?
Police working in Wales might wish to take a day off November 2 as Cardiff host Swansea, the weekend’s big game along with Arsenal-Liverpool. November is normally the time of the year by when both clubs are already out of the title race and Brendan Rodgers starts filling envelopes, while Piers Morgan and other Arsenal fans take to Twitter to vent their fury at Wenger.
Arsenal travel to Old Trafford a week later, while Liverpool face their first derby of the season on November 23. Expect Jamie Carragher and Jamie Redknapp to pontificate for hours on Sky Sports about the game which will, more than likely, be as dull an affair as any.
Seven days later, Spurs host United, hopefully without any snow this time around. The festive period begins with the Happy One returning to greet his old foe Arsene Wenger (and his obligatory rain-proof jacket) at the Emirates, while City host Liverpool on Boxing Day.
Then, well, everything we have mentioned above happens again but in different grounds.
Arsenal and Manchester United are away in, respectively, five and four weeks following Champions League duties. The Gunners will play Stoke (H), WBA (A), Palace (A), Man Utd (A), Cardiff (A), Man City (A) meaning that Arsene Wenger will probably be eager to share his thoughts on that. United, meanwhile, will face Man City (A), Southampton (A), Stoke (H), Arsenal (H), Cardiff (A), Villa (A).
Jose Mourinho and Chelsea, on the other hand, have been handed a softer set of post-Champions League fixtures as they’ll play Fulham (H), Norwich (A), Man City (H), WBA (H), Southampton (H) and Crystal Palace (H).
David Moyes returns to Goodison Park on April 19, arguably United’s trickiest game in a run-in that includes home games with Hull (April 12), Norwich (April 26) and Sunderland (May 3), before a jolly trip to the South Coast against Southampton on the final day of the season.
Chelsea also face Norwich and Sunderland at home but have to negotiate trips to Swansea (April 12) and Liverpool (April 26), before concluding the season away at Cardiff. City, meanwhile, face a rather tricky run-in with trips to Anfield (April 12) and Goodison Park (May 3) with a home game against West Brom and a trip to Crystal Palace sandwiched in between, before hosting West Ham on the last weekend of the season.
Last season’s relegation dogfight was conspicuous by its absence, with QPR and Reading securing their spot in the Championship with almost a month to go to the end of the season while Wigan, despite their best efforts, couldn’t offer Sky Sports the last day drama they so badly craved.
Of the newly promoted sides, Hull have the hardest debut as they travel to Chelsea, while Palace open their campaign at home against Spurs and Cardiff travel to West Ham.
It’s obviously too early to predict who’ll be scrapping for survival come April and May, but April 12 offers three potential six pointers, with Palace hosting Villa, Cardiff traveling to Southampton and Stoke facing Newcastle at the Britannia.
If you love final day drama as far as as the bottom three places are concerned, keep an eye on Craven Cottage, where Fulham host Crystal Palace and Cardiff, where the home side could well need to win against Jose Mourinho’s troops to avoid relegation.
What do you make of the fixtures’ list? Are you happy with your team’s opening games/ run-in? Which games could decide the title race and the relegation fight? We want your views so have your say below or get involved on our Facebook page or Twitter feed.