Fashionably late after the release of the 2013/14 Premier League fixture list FourFourTom gives five Premier League games to look forward to – but not necessarily if you are Manchester United manager David Moyes.
1. Manchester United v Chelsea, August 24
Ignoring the teams for a moment, the build up to this game will be all about the managers. David Moyes is taking charge of his first home game in the Premier League as Manchester United boss and, in the away dugout, Jose Mourinho faces his first real test, second time around, as Chelsea manager. The self-proclaimed ‘Happy One’ will be coming off the back of an opening day fixture against Hull, which should leave his incredible opening-day record in England marked with another win.
Mourinho locked horns with Moyes on eight occasions in all competitions during his first spell in England, with Chelsea winning five and Everton failing to win a single game. Since Mourinho’s departure, Moyes has faced Chelsea on 13 occasions in all competitions, winning three, drawing six and losing four.
I’m sure Manchester United fans will give Moyes a fair chance to get up and running before casting judgment. But this match could put some unwanted early pressure on Moyes’ shoulders, should he fall victim to Mourinho for a sixth time.
2. Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur, August 31
For the past two or three seasons we’ve all heard stories about the masses of money Arsenal have at their disposal, but we’ve never really seen anything to back it up. This year is different. Arsenal’s chief executive, Ivan Gazidis, has publicly stated that the club have large cash reserves which will be spent, and that the wage structure will change. For once, Arsenal are actually dipping into their pockets and, on top of that, we’re unlikely to see any star players sold. The only way is up.
As for Tottenham, they have two choices this summer – sell Gareth Bale and use the money to bring in a horde of quality players, or keep Bale and make a couple of additions. Either way, Spurs will still be a strong team and will provide stiff competition for every team in the Premier League. That said, I fancy Arsenal to pull away from their rivals and get back to fighting it out at the top, where they belong.
Arsenal start the season at home to Aston Villa, followed by a trip to Craven Cottage, while Tottenham’s first two games are against Crystal Palace and Swansea City, so this is probably the first time we’ll see either side in top gear. Over the past few seasons the North London derby has provided some some ludicrously high scorelines and most entertaining games in the Premier League.
3. Liverpool v Manchester United, August 31
If Arsenal v Tottenham didn’t make you mark August 31 in your diary – stop reading now – and do it this second. What a day for football.
If Moyes doesn’t fancy the fixture list he’s been dealt – the early away trip to Anfield could be the one he’s dreading most.
Personally, I think Liverpool will be in competition with Tottenham for fifth place this season. Not only have they made wise moves in the transfer market since the turn of the year, but Brendan Rodgers has got his players working well in a dynamic system. They’re getting closer to the level at which they should be playing at every week.
Top goalscorer Luis Suarez’s future is still unclear, but Shaktar Donestk’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been heavily linked as an addition/replacement. Despite not being able to spell his name without looking it up, Mkhitaryan is a player who really excites me and he would add an awful lot to Liverpool’s attacking line. Mkhitaryan. There, I’ve nailed it.
As with Arsenal and Tottenham, August 31 is probably the first time we’ll see what the new-look Liverpool team is capable of.
4. Hull City v Cardiff City, September 14
This is the first match of the season where we’ll see two of the three newly-promoted sides going head to head.
Feel free to call this assumption lazy, but I imagine all three promoted sides will be struggling to keep their place in the division come the final stretch of the season, so every head-to-head game will be vital. Both Hull City and Cardiff City should see this match as a prime opportunity to get a leg up over their rivals – especially since Crystal Palace face a trip to Old Trafford on the same day and will probably leave empty handed.
Of the three, I think Cardiff have a reasonable chance of staying up this season.
5. Cardiff City v Swansea City, November 2
I hate to be so cliché, but if there’s one Premier League game that will be contested like a cup final this season, it’s this one. On November 2, the South Wales derby will be played in the top flight of league football for the first time in history, and you can bet your house on an action-packed afternoon.
Swansea have the upper hand in terms of Premier League experience and quality of players, but Cardiff have the home advantage, which could prove to be crucial. They key to Cardiff’s survival will be making their home stadium a fortress. A trip to Cardiff could well be a testing away day for plenty of teams this season, but none more so than Swansea, who should expect the opposition fans to come out in full force and provide a hostile atmosphere.
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