It's A Fix!
The announcement of the fixture list feels like a significant part of the summer, as it seemingly signifies the new season is on the horizon. In truth, though, we’re still nearer to the campaign just gone than we are to 2013-14 (as the final whistle against Norwich went 31 days ago, while it’s still 59 days until the blues take on Newcastle) – but, nevertheless, the schedule has been announced and it’s had time to sink in.
And, where better to start than the opening day? The fixture computer has been fairly kind with this match, bringing Newcastle to The Etihad. Manuel Pellegrini gets to start at home – which is always the more favourable place for a new manager, since he’ll face the least pressure – and against a team that could be in turmoil, as the appointment of Joe Kinnear as director of football seemingly undermines the role of Alan Pardew.
The computer has then given the blues the chance to build some momentum, facing two newly promoted teams in Cardiff and Hull. The trip to Wales won’t be easy – the last time City won in Wales in the league was against Wrexham on Boxing Day in 1998 (in all competitions it was against TNS in 2003) – and the Bluebirds will still be riding the crest of the promotion wave, especially having won the division below. Home to Hull will be one where three points are expected, though their last visit (in 2009-10, the season they were relegated) yielded a 1-1 draw.
It could be reasonable to hope for maximum points going into the first Manchester derby of the season – an early one, this year – but, it comes off the back of a trip to Stoke. City earned their first victory in seven attempts at the Britannia in last season’s FA Cup, so it’s a tough place to go, although now under Mark Hughes the Potters could be a different side. Then it’s the derby, where so much could rest on the form of the two new managers – and David Moyes will be cursing that it’s looking like a difficult opening for him, as, in the run up to facing City, he’ll have Chelsea at home and Liverpool away.
New Year’s Day sees the blues away from home at Swansea – another game City have struggled with the last two campaigns – while it’s a home match with Liverpool on Boxing Day, which has been a 3-0 win for City in two of the last three league meetings at The Etihad. It could be a tricky Christmas, with a trip to Crystal Palace in the middle and Arsenal (h) and Fulham (a) in the run up to the festive period.
City travel to Old Trafford in the first match in March, which could have spelled doom for Roberto Mancini as his form seemingly dipped during that month in his three-and-a-half seasons in charge. Hopefully, it will be different for Pellegrini, though this could be a crucial match as it begins the run-in to the end of the season.
For the third season running, City are straight into the group stages of the Champions League and the fixture list hasn’t especially been kind to the blues in that regard, at least early on. The first European game is flanked by a trip to Stoke and the first Manchester derby, while a home match with Everton follows the second.
The third Champions League group game is at the end of October and it’s away games either side of it, as City travel to West Ham before and Chelsea after. The fourth game is also followed by an away match – that tricky trip to Sunderland that has so often resulted in a 1-0 defeat in recent years.
Home matches – Tottenham before and Swansea after – flank the penultimate European group game, meanwhile that previously mentioned home game with Arsenal follows the final Champions League group stage fixture.
However, assuming the title race goes down to the wire, the run-in looks fairly good for the blues. Aside from two tricky visits to Merseyside and one to the Emirates, the final ten games look like, with a bit of good fortune, they could all bring three points. Though City fans will be cursing their luck that the second-last match of the campaign is a trip to Goodison Park.
Overall, the fixture computer hasn’t been too unkind to the blues – and, after all, every team has to play all of the others – but there are some good opportunities to build up momentum in the league, which could prove vital in the title race.
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