The fixtures have been announced for the new domestic Premier League season, with some exciting games straight up. After Manchester City’s dramatic title victory on the last day of the season everyone will be looking to make a flying start in an attempt to overhaul Roberto Mancini’s men as champions. The opening day fixtures shape up like this:
Arsenal v Sunderland
Will this be the season that Arsenal end their trophy drought? Gunners’ fans will be hoping to see a front line of Podolski, Giroud and Van Persie on the opening day of the season. With a tough first three away games at Stoke, Liverpool and Man City, a good start at home will be vital. Sunderland will be looking to continue their progression under Martin O’Neill. A clinical striker is needed for the Black Cats to push on this season to add to the exciting talents of James McClean and Stephane Sessegnon. A tough opening day assignment and they will do well to get a draw here.
Everton v Manchester United
One of the stand-out opening day fixtures. Everton will be looking to put to bed their reputation for being extremely slow starters and if they can keep all their major players over the summer then they will provide a stern test for last season’s runners-up. This is not the start United would have wanted. With a number of their squad involved in the European Championships and then the Olympic Games their pre-season will be very much disrupted. The Red Devils will be determined to reclaim their title this season but they would probably be happy with a point here.
Fulham v Norwich
Martin Jol will be looking to push on from his excellent first season at Craven Cottage. Fulham’s home form was exceptional last term and if they can add a couple of players to their current squad they may well be looking to push on towards the European places this season. Norwich fans may well be wondering what has gone wrong since the end of the season. An excellent first season back has turned sour with Paul Lambert leaving for Aston Villa and Grant Holt handing in a transfer request. Chris Hughton has got a tough job on his hands but has shown he is capable at Newcastle and Birmingham. It is hard to look beyond a home win here though.
Man City v Southampton
Last season’s champions begin at home and will be looking to make a big statement of intent. No doubt there will be a couple of big additions to City’s already impressive squad as they look to dominate domestic football and make a mark in the Champions League. Southampton could not have wished for a harder start. They will go to the Etihad and play their passing attacking game with no fear but will be happy to get this one out of the way and concentrate on their second game at home to Wigan.
Newcastle v Tottenham
This is certainly a mouth-watering opening day fixture. Newcastle will be looking to prove that what they achieved last season was no fluke. Much like Everton if they can keep their major players over the summer and add a couple more quality additions they will be around the top six again. No-one knows what state Tottenham will be in by the time this game kicks off. After the sacking of Harry Redknapp a number of Spurs players are being linked with moves away and it may be a very different Tottenham team at the start of this season.
QPR v Swansea
Mark Hughes has promised that QPR will not be in a relegation battle again. A continuation of their excellent home form from the end of last season will certainly help and they may fancy their chances against a Swansea team getting used to a new manager. An interesting time lies ahead for the Welsh team. Michael Laudrup has a reputation for passing attacking football but after last year’s achievements with a big British contingent, he is already being linked with a number of foreign players who may take time to settle in.
Reading v Stoke
Reading make their return to the top flight with a home game. A good chance for the Royals to make a positive start and like all the promoted teams their home form will be crucial to them having a chance of survival. A prolific proven striker may well be needed but Brian McDermott’s men will be tough to beat on their own patch. Stoke will be looking to spoil Reading’s party. Always tough to play against, Tony Pulis will have Stoke well organised and determined. Rumours continue linking Michael Owen with a move to the Britannia and a partnership of Owen and Crouch would surely guarantee goals.
West Brom v Liverpool
Two clubs with new managers clash at the Hawthorns. Steve Clarke comes up against the side where he was assistant manager last year looking to prove himself as a capable number one. He may have a tough job following on from the impressive reign of Roy Hodgson and it could take some time to get his own ideas across. Brendan Rodgers will be looking to make his mark on a Liverpool side that have to improve on last season’s disappointment. With a tough first three home games against Man City, Arsenal and Manchester United, a winning start may be imperative for the Anfield club.
West Ham v Aston Villa
West Ham return after one season in the Championship with a winnable home game. Sam Allardyce will have the Hammers well prepared and determined to make a good start. The manager’s experience will be crucial and backed by a fired-up home support this is a big chance to get off to a winning start. Paul Lambert takes over a Villa side that had a disastrous 2011/12 season. Expect big transfer movement at Villa Park this summer both in and out as the Scot tries to create a hardworking and attacking team similar to what he had at Norwich to try and entertain the Villa fans.
Wigan v Chelsea
Wigan Athletic start the season determined to build on their incredible end to last season. Roberto Martinez continues to ignore interest from other clubs to try and improve the side and turn them into a mid-table outfit. The loss of Mohamed Diame and possibly Victor Moses will be a big blow and it is how they replace them that will determine their fate. After months of speculation Roberto Di Matteo finally landed the Chelsea job and will be desperate to improve on their disappointing sixth place. They will be looking to make a serious statement of intent at the DW Stadium and the new look attacking line up of Fernando Torres, Marko Marin and Eden Hazard will have too much for the Latics.
By Chris Newman