Man City’s easy start; Man United’s tough test. What to watch for and games you can’t miss

Manchester City will begin their Premier League title defense with a tough trip to West Ham, but the champions have been given the chance to set the pace once again.

The fixtures for the 2022-23 season were announced on Thursday, with Crystal Palace vs. Arsenal kicking off the new season on Friday, Aug. 5, before Fulham host Liverpool and Chelsea travel to Everton the following day.

New Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag begins with a home game against Brighton, while Tottenham entertain Southampton. Nottingham Forest will begin their first top-flight campaign in 23 years away at Newcastle United, and another newly promoted side, AFC Bournemouth, are at home to Aston Villa.

The league will pause for six weeks after Nov. 13 with the 2022 FIFA World Cup due to start in Qatar eight days later. Premier League games will resume again on Boxing Day.

After the opening weekend, the matches are subject to change as broadcasters select televised games, but what can we learn from the initial fixture list?

– Full Premier League fixtures schedule 2022-23
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Manchester City given chance to establish their authority

Man City beat Liverpool by a solitary point to last season’s Premier League title — after a thrilling final-day win over Aston Villa — but there was an 18-point gap between Jurgen Klopp’s side and Chelsea in third place. The top two are clear of the rest but the opening weeks give City a more presentable chance to assert themselves once again.

City’s first game at West Ham will be a test — Pep Guardiola’s men were only able to draw 2-2 at London Stadium last month — but they then face Bournemouth (home), Newcastle (away), Crystal Palace (home), Nottingham Forest (home) and Aston Villa (away) before hosting Spurs, who beat them home and away last season, on Sept. 10.

Liverpool must avoid familiar feeling of playing catch-up

Liverpool spent most of last season chasing City, and although they almost wore them down, the gap proved too great. Klopp’s side face two newly promoted teams — Fulham and Bournemouth — in their first five matches, but also must travel to two historic rivals — Manchester United and Everton — and visit Arsenal before hosting Manchester City on Oct. 15.

City are such impressive front-runners that Liverpool will be desperate to avoid watching them racing into an early lead. The Reds must stay in contention to maximize the prospect of an easier run-in. However, after facing Tottenham on April 29, Liverpool’s final four games are against Brentford (home), Leicester (away), Aston Villa (home) and Southampton (away).

Arsenal kick things off again

Last season began with Brentford celebrating their return to English football’s top tier after a 74-year absence with a memorable 2-0 win over Arsenal on a raucous Friday night in west London. Twelve months on, the Gunners are across town to the south to face a Crystal Palace side that thrashed them 3-0 in April, as former Arsenal midfielder Patrick Vieira masterminded a victory that dealt a huge blow to their top-four hopes. The opening game will be an early test of Mikel Arteta’s ability to take the team forward having missed out on Champions League football last season; a COVID-19 outbreak within the squad hampered preparations for that Brentford game but Arsenal will likely have little excuse this time.

There are two intense periods to the Gunners’ schedule that stand out: hosting Tottenham, Liverpool and Manchester City in October; then a daunting run in April awaits with Liverpool and West Ham away, Southampton at home before City away and Chelsea at home.

Ten Hag handed a difficult start

Man United’s form was so erratic last season that it is not easy to discern a clearly winnable game, but their opening two matches — at home to Brighton and away at Brentford — could have been a lot tougher.

However, new manager Ten Hag then faces a huge test of his credentials and ambition with the visit of Liverpool on Aug. 20. United were thrashed 5-0 in that fixture last season and the game will act as an early examination of the club’s rebuild. It may prove of some comfort that the transfer window remains open for another 11 days afterwards.

Tricky trips to Southampton and Leicester — venues where United lost most recently — precede the visit of Arsenal, whom they narrowly beat last season, before a game at Crystal Palace and a home clash with Leeds takes them up to the September international break. That will give Ten Hag and United pause for thought … which is just as well, because City are up next at Etihad Stadium on Oct. 1.

Tough opening for Conte’s ambitious Spurs?

Antonio Conte has made no secret of his desire to turn Tottenham into Premier League title challengers, but that grand ambition faces an immediate and difficult examination with trips to Chelsea, West Ham and Manchester City in their first seven games.

Spurs won at City last season, but their visit to Chelsea in January was a different story. After their third defeat in 10 days against the Blues — including both legs of their Carabao Cup semifinal — Conte described a “very large gap” between Tottenham and Chelsea. The club have been active in the market already in an attempt to close it, and should that continue, the attention will then shift onto Conte’s ability to produce a team greater than his predecessors, capable of competing with the best.

The first north London derby of the season — at Arsenal — takes place on Oct. 1, while back-to-back fixtures against Manchester United at home and Liverpool away in the space of five days in April will test their durability.

England get help before the World Cup

ESPN revealed on June 8 that the Football Association had made a formal request to the Premier League that no matches between the traditional Big Six — Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United — took place on the weekend immediately preceding the World Cup finals, Nov. 12-13.

That wish has been granted. City host Brentford, Liverpool play Southampton while Chelsea travel to Newcastle in what looks on paper to be probably the most intriguing fixture of that matchweek. Tottenham face Leeds, United travel to Fulham and Arsenal have an away game at Wolves.

England boss Gareth Southgate had previously voiced concerns about how often high-profile fixtures are scheduled on the eve of international breaks, his fear being this time that they would eat into the already minuscule eight-day preparation window between the last round of domestic games and the start of the World Cup in Qatar. The Premier League has listened.

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Rob Dawson suggests Erik Ten Hag has a chance to stamp his authority before Liverpool visit Old Trafford.

The games you can’t miss

Aug. 13: Chelsea vs. Tottenham

Roman Abramovich’s departure as owner after 19 years heralds the dawn of a new era at Chelsea. Nobody is quite sure what to expect, but the consortium led by Los Angeles Dodgers part-owner Todd Boehly will want to start with a bang. What better way to do so than by beating one of their bitterest rivals? Manager Thomas Tuchel is aiming to overhaul the top two, a mission shared by his opposite number, Conte. Coming in the second round of matches, the game will provide a pointer as to which team is better placed to achieve it.

Aug. 20: Manchester United vs. liverpool

Ten Hag will get a crash course in the intensity and hostility of English football’s fiercest rivalry. The Dutchman would no doubt have preferred a game of this magnitude later in the season, given the sheer scale of the rebuilding job at hand, but instead he will have an early question to answer: can United beat a superior side playing the sort of attacking football he wants to produce or will they adopt a more defensive style to try and avoid the sort of damaging result that could shatter any early season optimism? Cristiano Ronaldo may be 37 years old but his contribution will be another fascinating aspect, while Liverpool’s new €75m striker Darwin Nunez get an early taste of one of the Premier League’s iconic fixtures.

Sep. 10: Manchester City vs. Tottenham

All eyes will be on Erling Haaland. City’s relatively comfortable start makes this the first test of the 21-year-old centre-forward, who is expected to take English football by storm. Conte is a master tactician regularly capable of nullifying opponents, but Haaland is one of the brightest young talents in world football. The £51.2m man scored 86 goals in 89 games for Borussia Dortmund, but Spurs will take heart from winning this fixture 3-2 last season.

Oct. 15: Liverpool vs. Manchester City

Such is the dominance of the top two these days that games between the pair go a long way to determining the winners of the Premier League. They met three times last season, two draws in the league and an FA Cup semifinal which Liverpool won at Wembley, sharing 13 goals between them. These titanic tussles are appointment viewing, and given the relatively easy starts both have been given, it will rank among the first major test of their title credentials for 2022-23.

Dec. 26: Aston Villa vs. liverpool

This World Cup creates an unprecedented midseason challenge for club sides aiming to maintain consistency in their performances. The World Cup final takes place on Dec. 18 and eight days later the Premier League resumes.

Manchester City have a potentially tricky trip to Leeds (although they won 4-0 at Elland Road in April), but Liverpool’s visit to Villa Park looks the toughest Boxing Day test for any of the leading sides. Managed by former Reds captain Steven Gerrard, Aston Villa gave Liverpool a huge scare in last season’s run-in, taking the lead before Klopp’s side fought back to earn a 2-1 win. Villa have already been busy in the market, having signed Diego Carlos from Sevilla, Boubacar Kamara on a free transfer from Marseille and goalkeeper Robin Olsen from Roma while making Philippe Coutinho’s loan signing from Barcelona permanent.

May 20: Man City vs. chelsea

The penultimate weekend of the season pitches first against third from last season and a repeat of the 2021 Champions League final, which Chelsea edged 1-0. The Blues have ambitions to sustain a title challenge to rival City and Liverpool next season and will undoubtedly have done so if they are still in it by this stage. Chelsea won 2-1 at City in May 2021, but that is their only success in five previous visits to Etihad Stadium.

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