Softer start for Man City as new teams face tough tests – PL fixtures analysed

Softer start for Man City as new teams face tough tests – PL fixtures analysed

Manchester City’s opening-day reunion with Vincent Kompany and Burnley forms part of a friendly-looking start to the Premier League season for the treble-winners.

The top-flight fixture schedule was released on Thursday morning, with Kompany’s side hosting City on August 11 in the opening match of the 2023-24 season.

While clubs will all play each other twice over the course of the campaign, the ordering of the matches can have a significant impact on their fortunes.

Premier League fixture grid

To help unravel next season’s fixtures, the PA news agency has analysed the entire schedule using an aggregation of leading bookmakers’ odds and identified the most notable runs.

Soft start for City?

Using the aggregated odds to produce a projected league table, City – who top those standings ahead of Liverpool and then Arsenal – play only one of the projected top six in their first seven games.

Their first three games also include a second promoted side, Sheffield United, sandwiching a fixture against Newcastle – tipped to follow up their Champions League qualification by finishing fifth and facing City as part of a tricky first four games on paper.

Fulham, West Ham, Nottingham Forest and Wolves follow, with only the Hammers projected to finish in the top half.

Those four sides recur in a similarly tame run-in, at least after April 20’s trip to Tottenham, and the festive period has also been kind. Teams are set to play seven games in December and City face Spurs, Aston Villa, Luton, Crystal Palace, Brentford, Everton and the Blades.

The one concerning stretch of City’s season comes in March, when successive games against Manchester United, Liverpool, Brighton and Arsenal coincide with Champions League commitments.

Coming up

Manager Rob Edwards signs a fan's hat during Luton's 'Back in the Big Time' promotion celebration
Luton will open up against Brighton (Joe Giddens/PA)

Kompany’s side back up the City clash by travelling to fellow promoted side Luton.

Villa, Spurs and Forest follow before consecutive games loom against Champions League challengers Manchester United, Newcastle and Chelsea.

Sheffield United open up against Palace and Forest before their own date with City, while Luton travel to Brighton and Chelsea either side of the Burnley clash.

The end-of-season run-in pits the Hatters against exclusively mid-table sides in the projected standings in Brentford, Wolves, Everton, West Ham and Fulham – perhaps preferable to facing teams fighting for their lives at that stage.

Burnley and the Blades meet at Bramall Lane in their 34th game before each facing Forest, Newcastle and Tottenham in their last four – United also take on Everton while Burnley play Manchester United.

Meet the new boss

Mauricio Pochettino
Mauricio Pochettino faces Liverpool first up before a friendly run of games (Peter Byrne/PA)

London rivals Chelsea and Tottenham will go into the season under new management, with Mauricio Pochettino crossing the divide to take over at Stamford Bridge.

While his first assignment is at home to Liverpool, the Blues otherwise have a reasonably appealing start – West Ham follow before successive games against Luton, Forest and Bournemouth.

Spurs, under new boss Ange Postecoglou, open up at Brentford before hosting Manchester United. Bournemouth, Burnley and Sheffield United follow in succession before the Australian’s sternest early test with Arsenal and Liverpool back to back.

He will face a tricky run-in though, with the home derby against the Gunners sandwiched between Manchester City and Liverpool, and Newcastle before that run for good measure. Burnley and the Blades may provide some late respite.

Toney’s timing

Ivan Toney points to the name on his shirt while celebrating a goal
Ivan Toney returns from suspension in time for Brentford’s toughest run (Rhianna Chadwick/PA)

City, Chelsea and Spurs have the easiest first six games on paper, with Brentford among the next group in a potentially important boost while star striker Ivan Toney serves a betting ban.

Spurs and Newcastle are the toughest tests as they also face Fulham, Palace, Bournemouth and Everton while adjusting to life without Toney. He will be eligible to return at Tottenham on January 30, just in time to also face City and Liverpool in a run of 11 games, nine of them against projected top-half finishers.

The toughest start on paper belongs to Bournemouth, who face West Ham, Liverpool, Tottenham, Brentford, Chelsea, Brighton and then Arsenal.

The Cherries are hardly paid back in the run-in, with their final six games against Manchester United, Aston Villa, Brighton, Arsenal, Brentford and Chelsea – Gary O’Neil may have his work cut out to repeat last season’s impressive survival act.