Some would say that this morning is a lot like one of those childhood Christmas days where you wait eagerly to see what surprises are left in your stockings.
Others would see it as more of a template for the year ahead, the moment at which we can finally plan the nine months of our life after the annual ritual of The Community Shield is out of the way, and the real action starts.
For me, as a Charlton and Liverpool follower, that means being able to see when I can make a long trek up to Middlesbrough or hope against hope that I get tickets for a mate who has long desired to see Arsenal at The Emirates.
But on another level it’s also the point at which we can start to imagine how the season is going to take shape and unfold.
Having done a quick scan of the fixtures there are some interesting features for Liverpool supporters to consider, amongst all other fans considering the implications and ramifications of this morning’s fixture release.
Looking through the fixtures, the first striking feature is that Brendan Rodgers gets an immediate chance to bury the ghosts of Stoke, with an opening day visit up to the home of potteries.
Having brought in James Milner and Danny Ings as key players so far, and more expected to follow in coming weeks, this is the perfect chance for the new boys to put the shattered fragments of their club’s reputation back together almost instantly.
With one good performance the horror show at the end of the previous season can be erased. Defeat on the other hand would add further fuel to the fires of belief that nothing is likely to change. A draw would not be the worst result in the world, depending on what happens in subsequent games.
Bournemouth are the second opposition of the season’s fixtures, and this could be an opportunity for Liverpool, assuming the seasiders start well against Aston Villa.
Many newly promoted teams in this position of being brand new to the Premier League throw up a few surprises at the start, and having watched Bournemouth at Charlton last season they are a decent side that likes to play attacking football. There could be a thriller at Anfield and Liverpool can only hope that they come out on the right side of the result.
Anything less than three or four points from those opening games could spell the start of problems for the team’s ambitions. They face Arsenal and Manchester United within a matter of weeks between the end of August and the middle of September.
Then they have the kind of October that looks about as pleasant as eating red hot chilli peppers at the same time as suffering piles. Everton, Tottenham, Southampton, and Chelsea are all lingering on a horizon that’s not as pleasant as the blue skies and seas of Bournemouth might seem by the return match at the end of April.
However if Liverpool are top of the League after they face Chelsea on 31st October, or Sunday 1st November as it will most likely be re-arranged to, then they are going to be very strong contenders for the title.
By that time they will have played both Chelsea and Arsenal away from home, and faced Everton at Goodison. Traditionally those are three of their toughest games, alongside the other unofficial derby of facing Manchester United, which happens away in September and home in January.
There is though Manchester City to play in November, but there is a promising set of fixtures leading up to Christmas and the New Year.
On the whole the first half of the season seems tougher than the second, especially those opening months, and by the time Liverpool face Chelsea on 12th March at Anfield, they could well be in a position where a victory sets them up for a more pleasant run-in than they had last time they came within sniffing distance of the title.
Without downplaying the strengths and possible dangers of West Brom, Watford, and Newcastle, these are the sorts of teams Liverpool should be beating if they aspire to the title or even a top four finish. I would say the top four finish is the more realistic ambition considering the players brought in over the summer so far, and the probable loss of Raheem Sterling to a main rival.
If Sterling goes to Manchester City his great homecoming will take place on Tuesday night 1st March, by which time the implications of his departure will be known to all.
So there is a lot to look forward to, and a lot to be wary of as well. A bad start in those opening few games will put renewed pressure on the manager, and could set the stall for another season of mediocrity, by the high standards that Liverpool set themselves.
The chase for the top four should also be seen in light of the fact that Arsenal and Manchester United also have a similar scattering of fixtures at the end of the season that allows for a smooth run in.
Indeed, United’s last three games are against Norwich, Bournemouth, and Leicester, all potential relegation candidates in a division where almost anyone could end up at the wrong end of the table.
Heart says it would be great to see a closing week’s battle between Liverpool, Arsenal and United for the title, with Pool emerging triumphant, but head says it’s more of a run-in that will decide fourth place.
After all, it doesn’t seem to matter to Chelsea and Manchester City who they play at whatever point in the season. They just seem to get the job done and pick up the points that are needed. That’s why I haven’t even checked their fixtures yet, but will do so when finished writing this.
I just want to prolong the dream a little bit longer first!
PAUL BREEN is the author of The Charlton Men novel published by Thames River Press and available at http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Charlton-Men-Paul-Breen/dp/178308166X/[separator type=”thin”]
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