Fixtures for the 2017/2018 Premier League season were announced this morning, allowing us to take our first look ahead to what the new campaign might bring.
With form and history alone being more than enough to whet the appetite, we don’t need to wait to see what happens in next month’s transfer window to identify the key fixtures of the new season’s opening weekends.
Much might change ahead of the first games (12th/13th August), with over £1billion expected to be spent over the summer by Premier League clubs, but with bookmakers and pundits not looking beyond last season’s top six, it’s there that we’ll focus our attention, along with a glance what lies in wait for the newly promoted teams.
There are no top-of-the-table clashes in the first week of the new season and Chelsea will be looking to start with an emphatic three-pointer at home to Burnley in their opening match.
Burnley, who finished in 16th place last time around, will hope to catch the Champions cold after the summer break, when Chelsea minds might be focussed on their crucial next game (away at Tottenham).
A rejuvenated champion side losing at home to Burnley might be a long shot, but stranger things have happened.
Spurs will play at newly-promoted Newcastle in their opening fixture, before hosting Chelsea the following week for the season’s first huge clash.
Tottenham fans are concerned that the team did not make Wembley their own last year and six losses in their last nine outings at the stadium suggest that home advantage will be no such thing.
If the players don’t quickly adapt to the different atmosphere and pitch-size of one of the world’s great stadiums, they won’t be pushing for honours come May.
Despite finishing a full 15 points behind Chelsea last season, Man City are title favourites with every major bookie.
Much of that confidence is based the expectation of some seriously heavy spending next month and with the visionary Bernardo Silva and the hugely promising Brazilian keeper Ederson already on their way, Man City don’t look like they’ll disappoint.
Their early fixtures don’t look too troublesome, starting with a supposedly easy trip to Brighton and followed by two fixtures against mid-table teams, at home against Everton and then away at Bournemouth.
Watford away and Crystal Palace at home could well give Liverpool the ideal opportunity to hit their straps before the key visit of Arsenal in their third game.
As always, transfer rumours abound and, if they are to be believed, both teams will have let the moths out of their wallets to upgrade their firepower, meaning a cracking game should be in the offing.
The Gunners will kick-off at home against the unpredictable Leicester, before travelling to Stoke on the second weekend. Their Champions League credentials will come under the microscope in week three, however, when they travel to Liverpool.
Despite his earlier comments to the contrary, latest reports suggest Arsene Wenger might have £150million at his disposal this summer, so it’s anyone’s guess as to what stars they will boast come August.
No demons await United in the opening three rounds, with home games against West Ham and Leicester taking place either side of a trip to Swansea, representing, on paper at least, a relatively gentle start to the season.
The club will not tolerate another season so far from the top of the table (24 points by the end of last season), so expect a newly bolstered squad to be playing with real vigour by the time the big matches come around.
Brighton and Newcastle are set for a Premier League baptism of fire, hosting Manchester City and Tottenham respectively in their opening matches.
In week two, Newcastle will visit fellow new boys Huddersfield. A long season will await the loser of that fixture, meaning it will surely be the season’s first ‘must win’ game.
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