Analysis: How will the fixture list shape up the 2013/14 Premier League season?
With anticipation building for the upcoming campaign, Simon Rice untangles the fixture list
The fixture list for the new season has been unveiled - and while we knew it would involve 38 games per team and playing every side home and away, the order of the matches has created some interesting scenarios.
Here, we focus on the stories of the fixture list...
Tough start for David Moyes at Manchester United...
How do you follow the greatest manager of all-time? Fixtures against Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City in your first five games is probably not what David Moyes would have picked, but that's what he's got. After United's opening day fixture away at Swansea, it promises to be a baptism of fire for the former Everton manager. First Jose Mourinho brings his Chelsea side to Old Trafford, then Liverpool 'welcome' the Red Devils to Anfield. A home match against newly promoted Crystal Palace will come as welcome relief but then United are off to their noisy neighbours to play City.
Moyes hasn't been helped by a change to the scheduling either. Traditionally, a team will play at home either on the first or last day of the season. However, in the upcoming campaign, United play away in both matches, finishing the campaign (and perhaps retaining the title?) at Southampton.
Other key fixtures for Moyes will be those against his former club. United play at home against Everton in early December before he returns to Goodison Park four games from the end of the campaign.
Come March, come the the collapse of the season. That's the time of year Arsenal fans have become accustomed to seeing their trophy dreams evaporate for another season as their side are knocked out of the latter stages of the cups and faulter in the league.
While opening the month with games against Stoke City and Swansea, Arsene Wenger's side then face Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester City - before playing Everton in the first week of April. Already it looks like it will be the pivotal period of their season.
Not the time to be jolly for Swansea...
The festive season is crucial for every side in the Premier League as fixtures are piled in between eating Christmas cake and toasting New Year. Games will be played on Boxing Day, two days after that and then on New Year's Eve.
Swansea have arguably the toughest run during that period. They play Chelsea before travelling to Aston Villa. On New Year's day they face Manchester City - and there's no let up after that either with Manchester United and Tottenham the next teams on the horizon.
Nice and easy for Manuel Pellegrini...
While across Manchester Moyes is fretting at his opening fixtures, new Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini will be delighted with his. Newcastle, Cardiff City, Hull and Stoke City comprise the first four fixtures of the Citizens' season.
Hopefully by the time his side face United, that 'holistic approach' to things he has been charged with installing at the Etihad will be beginning to take shape.
No excuses this time Tottenham...
Spurs are becoming synonymous with end of season collapses in which they miss out on Champions League qualification. Last year Arsenal pipped them to fourth despite having trailed by seven points, while the season before that the Gunners were 10 points behind before finishing above them.
Therefore, Andre Villas-Boas will be delighted to see a kind run-in. After playing Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool in March, the last six fixtures are against Sunderland, West Brom, Fulham, Stoke City, West Ham and Aston Villa.
More games for Mourinho...
Chelsea have a relatively evened out fixture list. Mourinho will mark his return to the Premier League with a home game against newly-promoted Hull City before the rather sterner test of a trip to Old Trafford.
Next up is Aston Villa, although that won't be happening. The Blues are scheduled to play Bayern Munich in the Uefa Super Cup the day before and the match will have to postponed. That could see Chelsea lose early ground on their rivals - or have a useful game in hand depending on how you look at it.
Reach 40-points early at Norwich...
Chris Hughton's Norwich side became entangled in the relegation battle towards the end of last season but made it to safety in the end.
Following the release of today's fixtures, they'll know it's vital to hit that magic 40-point mark early. Their last four games are against Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.
Derbies are always a highlight of the season, and while the traditional ones of Manchester United v Manchester City, Tottenham v Arsenal and Everton v Liverpool will keep us entertained, we have a few new ones.
The most mouth-watering of them all will involve newly-promoted Cardiff against Swansea. The first match between the Welsh sides takes place in early November, before the next one in February.
The promotion of Crystal Palace means London derbies to replace the ones lost by the relegation of QPR. Their games against West Ham will involve the shortest trips for the Eagles. They take place December and April.
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