Chelsea will begin their title defense at home to Burnley when the 2017-18 Premier League season kicks off on the weekend of 11-13 August. The league season is set to finish on Sunday, 13 May, 2018 – a week earlier than last season – due to the World Cup finals in Russia starting on 14 June. Newly promoted Newcastle host Tottenham Hotspur, while Brighton welcome Manchester City and Huddersfield visit Crystal Palace.
Tottenham’s first league home game at Wembley Stadium will be against Antonio Conte’s champions on the second weekend of the season, and that promises to be one of the most important games of the early campaign. The precise dates and times of games will be set once TV schedules have been decided.
Questions have been raised about Spurs’ potential to perform at Wembley after a miserable run of results there in last season’s Champions League, and Mauricio Pochettino’s side will have a tough first test at their temporary home. The last time Spurs visited the national stadium was in the FA Cup semi-final, a game they lost 4-2 to this season’s first visitors – Chelsea. But it could prove a tricky opening few weeks for the defending champions, with the Blues hosting Everton (27 August), 2015-16 winners Leicester after the international break and then welcoming Arsenal (17 September).
Arsene Wenger’s Gunners have a chance to show their top-four credentials in week three when they visit Liverpool. Wenger went through a “squeaky bum” period last season when his long tenure at the club looked under serious threat. Only an impressive late run in the league and success in the F.A cup gave him a certain level of security.
Another early indicator in the race for the Champions League places comes in the following round of games, with Liverpool traveling to Etihad Stadium to face Manchester City. Europa League winners Manchester United’s first encounter with top four opposition comes when they face old rivals Liverpool on the weekend of 14-15 October.
English football’s top flight clubs will face four league games in nine days over Christmas and New Year period, with eight in total from 2 December to 1 January. We can count on the Liverpool manager, Jurgen Klopp, voicing his opinions on that subject: he generally does.
The final round of the Champions’ League group stage also takes place during that period, as traditionally does the fifth round of the League Cup. Arsenal welcomes Liverpool two days before Christmas, while Brighton goes to Chelsea on Boxing Day and Newcastle host Manchester City. We can lay a wager that there will not be much festive cheer amongst that lot. West Ham make the trip across London to face Tottenham in the round of games scheduled for 30 December, with another London derby taking place on New Year’s Day as Arsenal host Chelsea.
The new boys
There will be no easing into life in the top flight for those promoted from the EFL Championship, with Brighton’s first game in the Premier League at home to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. Last season’s EFL champions Newcastle hammered Tottenham 5-1 in their most recent Premier League game at St James’ Park, and it will be last season’s Premier League runners-up Spurs who visit Rafa Benitez’s side on the opening day. Huddersfield make their Premier League debut at Crystal Palace, before hosting fellow newcomers Newcastle a week later, and then complete their August schedule at home to Southampton. The Terriers’ first game back in the top flight since 1972 is a repeat of their last, when they drew 0-0 at Selhurst Park in April that year.
Brighton, meanwhile, are back in English football’s top division for the first time since the 1982-83 season. Chris Hughton’s side goes to Leicester on the second weekend before visiting Watford. The season needs a strong showing from Newcastle. The game in the north east has been in the doldrums for the last few years, and a much needed boost is required. However, life is not easy for the Geordie fans. With Middlesbrough and Sunderland relegated last season, the shortest round trip away game for the long-suffering Newcastle fans is 172 miles to Burnley. With six trips (including Watford) to the capital and three to the south coast, it promises to be an expensive year for some of the most passionate and loyal supporters in the game.
The big “six”
Chelsea: The Blues have a tricky set of fixtures in February and March with back-to-back games away to both Manchester clubs within 7 days; however, they can build momentum before the Christmas period with a run of games against Swansea (H), Newcastle (H), West Ham (A), Huddersfield (A) and Southampton (H). They have a relatively easy end of season run-in with Liverpool, the only top team in the final six games. Prediction: 2nd
Tottenham: In Jan/Feb, Spurs play three consecutive games against Man. Utd (H), Liverpool (A) and Arsenal (H), and this could be the defining period of their season. On the back of that run they face Palace (A), Huddersfield (H), Bournemouth (A) and Newcastle (H). They should coast in the final couple of weeks of the season; after Man City at home they sign off on Brighton away, Watford (H), West Brom (A) and Leicester (H). Prediction: 1st
Manchester City: Three games in early spring next year could be tricky-Everton (A), Manchester U. (H) and Spurs (A). The end of season could have mixed fortunes. After the Manchester derby at home and Spurs away the last 2 home games are Swansea and Huddersfield. Prediction: 3rd
Liverpool: They face 4 of the top six before the end of October (nothing like getting the hard stuff out of the way) with games away to Manchester City and Spurs and home games against Arsenal and United. They could gather momentum during the Christmas period with games at Anfield against Swansea and Leicester before a trip to Burnley. With a late season Merseyside derby and a trip to Chelsea, Liverpool’s the run in is not easy. They do, however, sign off at home to Brighton. Prediction: 5th
Arsenal: February looks ominous for the Gunners with Everton (H), Spurs (A) and Manchester City (H). However, they will have traveled to Liverpool and Chelsea in September before an end of year run against West Brom and Brighton at home and Watford away. The end of season looks promising with United away in April before Burnley (H) and Huddersfield (A). Prediction: 6th
Manchester United: They have a favorable start (they don’t face any of the other top six before Liverpool) with Liverpool on Oct 14 and Chelsea on Nov 4 on the road and Spurs sandwiched in between the first real test. The run-in looks simple after the Manchester derby in April with games against Brighton and Watford home and away respectively to end the season. Prediction: 4th
Everton: Tremendously entertaining last season, the Toffees have spent wisely during the summer to strengthen the squad following the departure of leading goal scorer Romelu Lukaku to Manchester United. They have an astute manager in Ronald Koeman and could surprise the top six. The return of Wayne Rooney (with much to prove in the England camp) could provide a great deal of impetus.
Champions League return
Champions’ League group-stage dates
- 12-13 September
- 31 October – 1 November
- 26-27 September 5. 21-22 November
- 17-18 October 6. 5-6 December
Chelsea did not have to contend with Champions League games on their run to the title last season, but the new Premier League fixture list means a challenging European schedule for Conte’s side. The Blues face four of last term’s top six on their return from continental action, with home games against Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United, as well as a trip to Liverpool coming immediately after Champions League fixtures.
The first Manchester derby of the season takes place at Old Trafford on the weekend of 9 December – immediately after the final Champions’ League group games – while City face Arsenal after the fourth group match. Tottenham have perhaps the easiest run of fixtures following Champions League dates – at home to Swansea, Liverpool, Crystal Palace, West Brom and Stoke, plus a trip to Huddersfield.
Derby days and manager rivalries
One of the most entertaining aspects of the Premier League in recent seasons is the performances of the managers on the sidelines. And we can be sure that more of the same is on the cards. We can also assume that the chewing gum manufacturers will be waiting for the coming season with anticipation. Pep Guardiola and the self-anointed “special one” will get the chance to renew their rivalry in the Manchester derby on 9 December at Old Trafford, with the return fixture at Etihad Stadium on the weekend of 7 April. Both Manchester derbies this season fall on the same weekends as the Merseyside derbies.
Everton make the short trip across Stanley Park to face Liverpool in December, while the Reds face the Toffees at Goodison Park in April. FA Cup winners Arsenal return to Wembley for the north London derby in February, with Spurs heading to the Emirates on 18 November.
If Arsenal doesn’t get off to a good start, Arsene Wenger may need a Kevlar helmet to wear with his stylish suits.
Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez goes back to Stamford Bridge to face former club Chelsea on the first weekend of December, while the Spaniard returns to another one of his former employers, Liverpool, on 3 March. Liverpool and Manchester United first meet at Anfield on 14 October, before Klopp’s side go to Old Trafford on 10 March.
Premier League derby days
North London: Emirates (18 November), Wembley (10 February)
Manchester: Old Trafford (9 December), Etihad (7 April)
Merseyside: Anfield (9 December), Goodison Park (7 April)
Who will get off to a fast start?
Looking for a sure thing for the opening day? The records suggest you should look no further than the champions. With 54, Chelsea has won more points on the opening day than any other Premier League club, and has not lost in their first game since a defeat by Coventry in 1998. The Blues host Burnley, a side with one of the worst records – they have lost all three of their Premier League opening-day fixtures and only scored one goal.
In fact, just one of the previous 25 reigning Premier League champions have lost their opening game in the following campaign – that was Leicester against Hull City last term.
The fixtures computer
There are 2,036 matches across the Premier League and Football League over a nine-month period. Travel plans, rail and road networks, and festive holidays all play a role in deciding when the matches are played. But how does the process work?
- Every club is paired with another in regard to when they play their home and away fixtures.
- For every date in the season, the fixture computer knows who is at home and who is away, and assigns an away side to a home side randomly.
- The Premier League, the Football League and Atos representatives then review the fixtures for two days to make sure they have met all the requirements.
But if there are any problems, they go back and start again – and changing one match can require 40 other changes. In the 2012-13 season, the Metropolitan Police did not want high-profile matches played until after 8 September because of the Olympics and Paralympics. The review process incorporates representatives from all the leagues, the FA and also a fans’ representative from the Football Supporters’ Federation.