Excitement is starting to grow for the new season as the fixture list was released this morning, which is the first key date of the footballing season. Fans will be examining their club’s fixtures while looking for the easy and hard sequences of matches. For clubs fearing relegation and chasing the title, the run ins will be under massive scrutiny. Some teams today will be thanking the fixture computer like Arsenal who have a nice start to the season whereas David Moyes’ job has been made harder by the fixtures he has received today to start his tenure at Old Trafford.
Jose Mourinho is the new manager who has the easiest first game at home against newly promoted Hull City while Manuel Pellegrini will begin at the Etihad Stadium against Newcastle United. Everton begin the Roberto Martinez era away at Norwich while their former boss will take his Manchester United side to Swansea.
Aston Villa have been given a torrid start with home games against Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Everton in their opening nine games. They also face tricky away trips to the capital in the form of Arsenal and Chelsea in the same period. In the corresponding fixtures last season, Aston Villa picked up no points. If they don’t better that this season, they will find themselves near the bottom after ten games which normally represents a relegation battle.
Another side with a tricky start is Manchester United who will travel to Swansea, Liverpool and Manchester City while hosting Crystal Palace and Chelsea in their first five games. If they start slowly and lose the Manchester derby in the process, David Moyes will be under huge pressure straight away as Manchester United will be falling behind in the title race. It will be interesting to see if the fans are patient with Moyes, but with the club being so used to success, I suspect Moyes will have to start well.
Meanwhile Arsenal have a good start to the season on paper, which could propel them to the top of the table early on, making it even more important for them to strengthen this summer as they have a genuine chance to win the league with the upheaval at the other top clubs. They face Aston Villa, Tottenham Hotspur and Stoke at home in their first five games while they face trips to Fulham and Sunderland. If they start quickly and win the North London derby, they will have huge momentum to stage a title challenge.
At the back end of the season Norwich City face a horrendous last four games against Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal. If they aren’t safe by then, Norwich will be favourites for relegation. Although in the last campaign they did manage to beat both Arsenal and Manchester United at home, whilst also giving a great display to win at the Etihad Stadium on the final day which indicates that they can rise to the occasion against the better sides in the league.
Manchester United do have a nicer run in than their start as they face Hull, Norwich and Sunderland at home while they will be away to Everton and Southampton. David Moyes will have to wait until the 19th April to take his new team to Goodison Park, but the run in could provide Manchester United with five wins which could be crucial if they are in a tight race for the title.
Other noteworthy fixtures include the first South Wales derby which is scheduled for the 2nd November; the first Tyne Wear derby which will take place on the 26th October and the first Merseyside derby which will be on 23rd November. Jose Mourinho will face former scout Andre Villas Boas for the first time on the 28th September.
At the end of the day, each team plays the same 38 games so the table won’t lie at the end of the season but the opening run of games and the run in are crucial. Especially for teams chasing the title or fighting relegation.