The first date marked in every football fan’s calendar is the day the upcoming season’s fixtures are released and this date for the 2013-2014 campaign came this past Wednesday with newly promoted Hull City, Crystal Palace and Cardiff City all finding out their first opponents in the top flight. Hull City have arguably the most Premier League experience amongst their staff with Steve Bruce having managed Birmingham City, Wigan Athletic and Sunderland across numerous Premier League campaigns, Crystal Palace’s Ian Holloway has just one Premier League season under his belt which came in the 2009-2010 season with Blackpool however Cardiff City boast no Premier League experience in their coaching ranks with Manager Malky Mackay having never managed a team in England’s top flight.
With supporters of the three newly promoted teams all looking eagerly towards their opening fixtures, their respective clubs activity in the transfer market has been put on the backburner with Cardiff’s Malky Mackay admitting this week that he is finding it difficult to attract the top quality players required to be competitive in the Premier League, “It’s convincing some players to come to a club who are seen as one of the relegation favourites.” With all three promoted clubs not yet making any inroads in the transfer market fans supporters will be hoping for some activity in the near future in the hope of avoiding relegation at the first opportunity. Hull City, Crystal Palace and Cardiff will all be looking towards August 17th when their Premier League campaigns begin.
Hull City under Steve Bruce’s stewardship face a significantly difficult opening to life in the Premier League with the Tigers beginning with a trip to Stamford Bridge to face Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea on the opening weekend of the season with the atmosphere at Stamford Bridge for Mourinho’s first home game in charge likely to only increase the difficulty of Hull’s task. Hull have their first home game a week later when the KC Stadium will play host to Chris Hughton’s Norwich City who after a successful campaign in 2012-2013 where the Canaries avoided relegation, have made sizable moves to strengthen their squad already this summer with Dutch goal machine Ricky van Wolfswinkel joining from Sporting Lisbon.
Steve Bruce will be hoping the euphoric atmosphere surround the KC Stadium that day will help push his Hull side to a victory over Norwich in their first home game. The Tigers round off a difficult opening month on the thirty first of August with Bruce’s men travelling to Manchester to face last season’s runners up Manchester City who have too made expensive moves to improve their squad in order to reclaim the title from rivals Manchester United. Hull City firmly have the odds stacked against them in the opening three games with Steve Bruce facing the very realistic possibility that his side may come away with one or less points from their opening three matches.
Hull City supporters will have pinpointed several key dates in their calendar where they travel to the Premier League’s more iconic stadiums with Hull City travelling to the Emirates on December 3rd, Anfield on New Year’s Day and Old Trafford on April 12th with the fight to avoid relegation likely to be in full swing by then. The traditional Boxing Day fixture is a potentially exciting one for Hull City supporters with the Tigers welcoming Champions Manchester United under new manager David Moyes to the KC Stadium is the first of the festive period’s fixtures.
Hull City finish the season with two out of their three final games being away from home with the trio of matches commencing on April 26th with a trip to Craven Cottage to face Fulham, this match is followed by another away trip, this time to Villa Park where they will face Paul Lambert’s Aston Villa side who have made the most moves thus far this summer with Lambert having brought in no fewer than five players into his first team squad. Hull City then face a potentially decisive game in the relegation battle when they face Roberto Martinez’s Everton side at the KC Stadium on May 11th which is scheduled to be the final day of the Premier League season.
Following their dramatic entry into the Premier League via the Play-offs Ian Holloway’s Crystal Palace will be hoping to endure a much longer spell in England’s top flight than the solitary season they spent in the Premier League in 2004-2005 following their promotion the season before. Ian Holloway heads into the Premier League without one of his star players from the successful campaign just gone with Wilfried Zaha returning to Manchester United where it is expected he will become an integral part of David Moyes’ squad especially with the inconsistencies the Champions have shown in the wide areas in the past twelve months.
Crystal Palace open their campaign on home soil at Selhurst Park with the Eagles welcoming Tottenham Hotspur on the Premier League’s opening day with it still being unclear whether Crystal Palace will be facing a Tottenham Hotspur side with or without their talisman Gareth Bale although Andre Villas-Boas’ recent suggestions have led us to believe Bale may well stay with the North London club. Crystal Palace then travel to Stoke City for their first away match with Ian Holloway having a real chance of three points at the Britannia with Stoke more than likely going to have to endure a period of change with Mark Hughes taking over from Tony Pulis with the latter’s’ physical playing style so heavily engrained into the players at the club. If Stoke City haven’t fully moulded to Mark Hughes’ approach to matches in terms of tactics there is a sizeable possibility Holloway’s Palace side could surprise them especially with the pace and skill of Yannick Bolasie on the wing. Crystal Palace round of their opening three fixtures again at home with Paulo Di Canio’s Sunderland side the visitors on August 31st
Crystal Palace get their first ‘big’ trip in the first week of September with the Eagles facing Manchester United at Old Trafford which will see Wilfried Zaha face his former club. Palace go to Anfield on the 5th October with visits to Stamford Bridge and Eastlands coming in late December. Crystal Palace’s Boxing Day fixture is a trip to the Midlands with Crystal Palace facing Aston Villa at Villa Park. Crystal Palace supporters will to February 1st and April 19th where they travel to fellow London clubs Arsenal and West Ham United respectively.
With Crystal Palace expected to be right in the midst of a relegation battle the final three fixtures of the season like for Hull City could well be crucial and Ian Holloway’s men do have the slight advantage of two of their final three matches coming at home, however they are against Manchester City and Liverpool respectively. These two fixtures have the potential to really put pressure upon Crystal Palace at the wrong time of the season and Crystal Palace supporters may well hope for Manchester City to advance further in the European Cup in order for the fixture to be rescheduled. Crystal Palace end the season with a trip to Fulham which may be a chance to pick up some points with Fulham being known to let standards slip as the season nears its climax in recent years.
Cardiff City after winning the Npower Championship at a canter last season are entering their first ever season in the country’s top flight and will hopefully look to continue their impressive form from last season and avoid relegation at the first opportunity. The Bluebirds begin their inaugural campaign in the Premier League with a tough looking trip to Upton Park to face West Ham United and Malky Mackay will know full well the work his defence will have to put into training in the week prior to that opening match to combat the aerial and physical threat posed by new fifteen million pound signing Andy Carroll. Cardiff’s opening home game on August 24th is arguably one of the toughest fixtures possible with Manuel Pellegrini’s Manchester City being the first Premier League visitors to Cardiff City Stadium. Cardiff then complete their opening three Premier League fixtures with a second successive home fixture with Everton visiting Cardiff City Stadium on August 31st.
The first key fixture that stands out in the calendar of the Cardiff City supporters comes on October 19th when Malky Mackay’s side travel to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea however the real outstanding fixture for Cardiff City fans is the Welsh derby with Swansea City with these fixtures being known for their ferocity both on the pitch and off it. The first clash between the two Welsh titans comes on November 2nd with Cardiff hosting Swansea with the return fixture being played out at the Liberty Stadium on the eighth of February. On Boxing Day Cardiff City host last season’s surprise team Southampton with the Saints looking to a more continental playing style under Mauricio Pochettino and it is expected Southampton will look to bring in a number of high quality players to aid club chairman Nicola Cortese’s dream of a top ten finish with Victor Wanyama of Celtic being linked to St Marys.
Cardiff City face a testing final three games with Malky Mackay’s charges having to travel to both Sunderland and Newcastle United on consecutive weekends before ending the season at home to Chelsea. Cardiff City supporters will be hoping their team will be in a strong position to avoid relegation heading into those difficult final three matches of the season.
With the summer break still in its relative infancy there is a long time to go for Hull City, Crystal Palace and Cardiff City to think about their opening Premier League fixtures and their focus for the meantime will be on trying to bring in players of an acceptable quality suited to the Premier League to aid their aim of avoiding relegation. We will get a far greater look at the qualities the newly promoted sides have at their disposal as the transfer window and pre-season progresses.