FIXTURE IMPACT: 2021/22 Premier League schedule
Image credit: PA Carl Recine
The fixture schedule for the 2021-22 Premier League season is out and could have a significant impact on how teams fare during the campaign.
Using aggregated bookmakers’ odds to rank sides in order of predicted difficulty, a projected final table has been put together.
Here, the PA news agency takes a look at what the data found.
History to repeat itself for City?
Manchester City have been handed a tricky start with five of their opening seven fixtures against sides who finished in the top eight last season.
It is not all bad for the champions, though, with their run-in favourable given they only face Liverpool in terms of likely title rivals during the last two months of the term.
During the past campaign it took Pep Guardiola’s side a while to get going – they were as low as 13th in November – before they hit a purple patch and never looked back.
History could repeat itself, especially with City widely predicted to claim top spot again.
United can lead chasing pack
Manchester United began slowly in the 2020-21 campaign before finding their feet and eventually clinching second place.
With none of their first seven fixtures against any of the so-called ‘big six’ or Leicester, the Red Devils have a great opportunity to build momentum and be the front-runners in the title battle.
A strong start could afford Ole Gunnar Solskjaer some leeway if, as could be expected, they hit a sticky spell during October and November when they face a number of rivals while their Champions League group-stage campaign begins.
Norwich braced for big boys
Daniel Farke’s side once again face Liverpool on the opening day – a repeat of the curtain-raiser two years ago, when the Canaries went down 4-1 at Anfield.
This time it is at Carrow Road, but it does not get much easier afterwards for the Sky Bet Championship winners. Manchester City, Leicester and Arsenal make up their first month of the season, with a realistic prospect the Canaries will be pointless going into the first international break of the season.
It does get easier for the Canaries after, but will confidence be so hit in those early weeks that they cannot recover?
New managers bounce or not…
There will be new managers in the dugouts of Tottenham, Everton, Wolves and Crystal Palace – and the fixture list has proven kind to whoever replaces Carlo Ancelotti at Goodison Park.
The Toffees avoid any of the ‘big six’ until October and, even after facing Manchester United at the start of that month, it is not until November when they take on the rest.
While the next head coach at Everton is set for a gentle introduction, it is a different story for whoever takes over at Spurs with Manchester City up first and London derbies with Arsenal and Chelsea before September is out.
It is a similar situation for managerless Palace and Wolves, who recently appointed Bruno Lage, with both taking on teams looking to qualify for the Champions League in the early weeks of the term.
Tricky finishes for Hornets and Magpies
Promoted Watford will be among the teams predicted to be in a relegation battle and will be wary of leaving it late to pull off a ‘great escape’ given how the fixture list has worked out.
The Hornets face a difficult finish, with Leicester and Chelsea their last two fixtures of the term. A trip to Manchester City is also pencilled in for the end of April.
Newcastle, who were at one stage last season dragged into a relegation scrap before pulling clear to finish 12th, will also be hoping to get points on the board early with a testing final few weeks on the cards.
Steve Bruce’s Magpies face Liverpool and Manchester City during the final month and take on all of the sides likely to be in the hunt for Europe during their run-in.
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