The Battle-Lines Are Drawn
August 13th, the date in everybody’s calendar, the date that our gladiators go to battle once again and the date that a brand new Barclays Premier League begins for Stoke City.
By now I’m sure that most of you have seen the fixture list which was announced earlier today, and I’m sure that a number of you have even gone as far as to study the entire thing, from week 1 to week 38, in enough detail to feel as though you’ve already lived the season.
But if you haven’t then don’t worry because that’s exactly what I’m going to attempt to do for you all right now. So without further ado let’s look at how Stoke’s season has been laid out and what we can take away from the fixtures.
In attempt to try and keep this blog concise I’ve broken the season up into 4 blocks, Pre-Christmas (August/September/October/November), Christmas (December/January), Post-Christmas (February/March) and then the Go-Home Stretch (April/May).
Okay so I’m sure you all know by now that we kick off our season with an away fixture against Middlesborough, on the face of it playing against a newly promoted team is always a good thing, however to be their first opponent in the big leagues could prove to be tricky as we will not be used to their team and they will undoubtedly be out to prove themselves.
What’s even more worrying is that following our opener the first away manager to visit the BET365 Stadium shall be none other than Pep Guardiola (Not a bad way to christen our new stadium name in my opinion). An away game at Everton and a home game with Spurs later and our fans may be worried about our opening run of fixtures, however the rest of Pre-Christmas is far more palatable. Games against Palace (A), West Brom (H), Sunderland (H), Hull (A), Swansea (H), Bournemouth (H) and Watford (A) make up the rest of our Pre-Christmas period, only interjected by away games to Manchester United and West Ham. Making the run of games in the build up to Christmas a perfect opportunity to start building a large number of early points as we look to hit form before a tricky Christmas period.
Whilst Christmas kicks off with an “easy” home game to Burnley, this has proved difficult to us before, and is followed by a number of tough fixtures. Arsenal (A), followed by two home games against Southampton and Leicester are quickly followed by a boxing day trip to Liverpool, with the recent Capital One Cup semi-final being the only time we have “won” at Anfield over 90 minutes this century. Chelsea (A) rounds off a difficult December period, which shall hopefully be buffered points-wise by the run in to this period of games.
Following on we have a small buffer as we play Watford at home and then away at Sunderland, before facing another tough team in Manchester United at home to round off the Christmas period.
In the smallest of our four blocks we have quite a mixed bag of fixtures, which means it could go either way in regards to our form heading into the final run of fixtures. Starting off with home games against Everton and Palace, split up by an away fixture with the Baggies, our Post-Christmas period could feasibly be off to a strong start. However after that we have Spurs and Manchester City away, with Chelsea at home, the only saving grace coming in the form of a home match with Middlesborough, who we can hope are starting to flounder by that part of their season.
Following an international break we head into our final stretch of matches in the Premier League. Again, like the post-christmas period, this block of matches is somewhat of a mixed bag. However having said that with the right form behind us it does offer a chance to finish the season with a bang.
Leicester away presents a tough start (Based on their form last season), however with Liverpool at home being the only fixture to dread going into the next few weeks, we have Burnley and Swansea (A) and Hull (H) to try and snap up points and maintain form.
The final four fixtures are tougher, starting off with West Ham at home. Depending on how our seasons have gone this match could be incredibly important for where the two teams end up finishing, so let’s hope that the previous Swansea and Hull games have put us in a good place heading into this one. Next up is Bournemouth away, another chance to right any wrongs that may have occurred during the match against West Ham and “Bounce back” as Hughes likes to put it, but we can hope that we won’t have to use that phrase so late in the season.
Then we have the big one, Arsenal at home, and whilst it isn’t realistic to think that we may be able to win the League (Mind you anyone could win these days), it would be a beautiful thing if we could cost Arsenal the title so late in the year. And lastly, Southampton away rounds out our Premier League season, in a match that just like West Ham could be one that is crucial to the final positions of the two teams involved if the season has been kind enough.
So there you have it, a look at Stoke’s season as it has been laid out by the powers that be. I hope you enjoyed and be sure to like our Facebook and Twitter pages to keep up-to-date with all the latest Stoke City news, rumours and the best blogs around.
Written by Mitch Adams
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