Premier League fixtures released: early season preview
The 2015/16 fixture list for the Barclays Premier League has been released, leaving fans kept company by the U21 Euros, the Copa América and the Women’s World Cup with less than two months to wait before the new season kicks off on Saturday 8 August.
Chelsea, last season’s champions by an eight point margin and boosted by the signing of Radamel Falcao have been installed as the early favourites by the bookies at a best price of 3/2 with Bet365 and SkyBet. With Lyon defender Samuel Umtiti on Mourinho’s radar and goalkeeper Rob Green likely to replace Petr Cech as backup, Manchester City will need a strong showing in the summer transfer window if they are to catch Chelsea while fending off Arsenal and Manchester United.
Manuel Pellegrini has targeted Kevin de Bruyne and Paul Pogba as the players required to inject some verve into an at times lethargic City side, as they continue to lodge bids that fall short of Liverpool’s valuation for want-away wide man Raheem Sterling.
Most bookmakers have them priced at 11/4 to claim the title, but the squad will need serious surgery over the coming months to fulfil that ambition, with the loss of James Milner a real blow to the Sky Blues’ midfield.
Best odds of 5/1 make Arsenal third favourites to nab top spot, the Gunners kicking off their season with winnable ties against West Ham and Crystal Palace. If Arsene Wenger can find a world class striker - after being snubbed by Jackson Martinez in favour of AC Milan - to complement Petr Cech’s impending arrival, then the Gunners have every chance of making good on Ladbrokes’ odds of 7/4 to go one better than last season and secure a finish in the top two.
Manchester United and Tottenham face each other at Old Trafford on the opening day of the season in a fixture Sky and BT Sport will be sure to battle over. With the Red Devils 1.70 favourites with online bookmaker Winner to take the three points, it remains to be seen whether Harry Kane will line up in red or white amid strong reported interest from Louis van Gaal.
United are 11/2 with Ladbrokes to win the league next season, while best odds for Tottenham to gain a first top four finish since 2012 also come from Ladbrokes at 13/2.
Liverpool’s Brendan Rogers could be forgiven for breaking out in a cold sweat at the sight of his side’s first seven away fixtures. With his job on the line following last year’s frustrating campaign, which ended in the humiliation of a 6-1 defeat away to Stoke, he will have to take on all of last season’s top five on their turf, as well as avoid a repeat at the Britannia Stadium on the opening day of the season.
Down the other end of the table, the three promoted sides are predictably the favourites to go straight back down. Watford, managed by the Spanish Quique Flores, have been nailed on for the drop by most bookmakers, priced at 8/13 by William Hill, Winner and 32Red. A front line containing Fernando Forestieri and Troy Deeney will give the Hornets a fighting chance, but their Italian owners will need to buy smartly to stave off relegation to the Championship.
Bournemouth will know they have to close in on survival before the final weeks of the season, facing Liverpool and Chelsea in the run-in and going away to Manchester United on the final day of the season. The Cherries begin life in the top flight at home to Aston Villa, a game they are 2.20 favourites with Winner to emerge victorious from, but a sterner test awaits them a week later away to Liverpool, serving a stark reminder to Eddie Howe that maintaining his side’s top flight status will be no mean feat.
Bouncing back to the Premier League via the play-offs, Norwich City appear to be the best equipped of the promoted sides to stay up, reflected in odds of 3/2 from BetBright to finish above both Bournemouth and Watford. The experienced presence of Youssouf Mulumbu will add steel alongside Jonny Howson in the Canaries’ midfield, and Norwich can be quietly confident as they go into their opening fixture against Crystal Palace.