Next season’s Premier League fixture list was announced this morning and, for a Leicester City team looking to bounce back from a disappointing season, it’s going to be tough going right from the start. The Foxes will open the season at the Emirates Stadium against Arsenal (and potentially Riyad Mahrez) on August 12th.
It won't get any easier from there; within the first six games we’ll also travelling to Manchester United and facing Liverpool and champions Chelsea at home. In amongst those are games against the newly promoted Brighton (home) and Huddersfield (away). On paper those games should be respite, but as Hull City showed us last year this can be the most dangerous time to face new teams, before anyone knows what to expect from them.
The bright side to this is we won't have to wait long to see some old faces back. Along with the possibility of Mahrez in an Arsenal shirt and Kanté for Chelsea, the real plus is that we only have to wait until the second week of the season for the return of Anthony Knockaert.
The former fan favourite was instrumental in bringing his new team Brighton up from the Championship last year and can expect a fantastic reception when the Seagulls arrive at the King Power for our first home game of the season.
Such a concentrated patch of difficult games of course means that there will be easier patches too, but we saw last year what a knock to a side’s confidence a poor start can cause. This time around the Foxes will either need to come flying out the gate or to come in with a stronger mentality than this year. With reduced expectations and pressure, they’d hopefully be much more comfortable with a slow start.
Whatever happens, Leicester could still be involved in the title race right to the end. The final game of the season will be away to Tottenham Hotspur, 3rd and 2nd place finishers the last two years. If the title goes down to the wire that could be an exciting match indeed.
Some games will be moved from their current times once televised fixtures have been decided, but that won't be for some time for most. Sky TV have stated that they expect to release their games for August and September at the beginning of July.
It’s hard to really judge the difficulty of a fixture list so early, considering we know so little of what to expect from each team. It’s a tough start to the season and that can be the worst way to kick off, especially if the back line has been through some transfer upheaval and needs time to gel.
At this point I’d say nobody should panic though. Just quietly worry throughout the summer.