Saturday , March 2 2024

Roll on August 7, I can’t wait


HAMMER TIME: Defending champions Manchester City will face West Ham in London on the opening day of the season. AFP Photo

Paul Kennedy

OK, so clearly I need to get a life, that’s well and truly established, but I was just a bit little excited yesterday as I waited for the release of the Premier League fixtures for next season.

And granted, the first game may still be almost two months away, but with no World Cup this summer to look forward to, the kick-off for the Premier League can’t come quick enough.

And talking of the World Cup, with the bigwigs at UEFA deciding this year’s global showcase tournament will be held in Qatar, the fixtures for next season look a lot different than ever before.

As the World Cup will take place in November and December, there’s a rather gaping hole in the fixture list this time around.

Phase one’s run of games will end on November 12, ten days before the opening game of the World Cup.

There will then be a 44-day hiatus in the Premier League, and indeed all leagues around the world, until domestic football returns on December 26, some eight days after the World Cup final is played.

Many of the European managers plying their trade in the UK have been calling for a winter break in the season anyway. And although to some extent, that’s exactly what they’ve got, many of the top players will still be taking part in the World Cup.

So for those not fortunate enough to have qualified for Qatar – Mohammed Salah is one noticeable absentee as Egypt failed to progress – then it’s a nice welcome break in the middle of what will be a tough and congested season.

But let’s get back to the Premier League.

Champions Manchester City begin the defence of their Premier League crown at West Ham, while title rivals Liverpool travel to newly-promoted Fulham.

The new Manchester United manager will feel he’s been dealt a good hand on opening day, beginning his new reign at Old Trafford with a perfectly winnable home match against Brighton.

But he won’t have it easy for too long as Liverpool play United, at Old Trafford, on August 20.

Chelsea, as fate would have it, travel to Everton for their opener, who of course are now managed by former Chelsea hero Frank Lampard.

But it’s the end of the season I’m taking a particular interest in. If last season is anything to go by, it could certainly go down to the wire once more.

Champions City’s last six games are: Arsenal (h), Fulham (a), Leeds United (h) Everton (a) Chelsea (h) and Brentford (a).

Liverpool on the other hand, who pushed City so close in the last campaign, play in the last six games: West Ham United (a), Tottenham Hotspur (h), Brentford (h), Leicester City (a), Aston Villa (h) and Southampton (a).

To me, that looks like the fixture Gods have been somewhat kinder to Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. But of course, that’s a long way off. And really and truly who knows what the top of the Premier League will look like as the campaign wraps up next May.

But one thing is for sure – the start of the season just can’t come quick enough. VNS

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