Friday, February 23, 2024

Who has the toughest and easiest fixtures up to start of January?

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Premier League clubs will return from the international break facing an intense period, with EIGHT rounds of top-flight fixtures between now and 2 January.

So, which teams have the toughest and easiest fixtures during that spell? We’ve crunched the numbers to provide the answer.

We’ve calculated the average current league position of each side’s next eight opponents. The teams with the lowest numbers in the table below have the hardest fixtures ahead, because overall their opponents will generally be closer to first place in the table than 20th.

Average position of PL opponent MW13-20
Club Ave. Club Ave.
Crystal Palace 9.25 Liverpool 10.38
Everton 9.25 Brighton & HA 10.50
Arsenal 9.88 Man City 10.63
Aston Villa 9.88 Nott’m Forest 10.63
Luton 9.88 Brentford 10.75
Spurs 9.88 Newcastle 10.88
West Ham 10.13 Burnley 11.00
Sheff Utd 10.25 AFC Bournemouth 11.50
Man Utd 10.25 Chelsea 12.50
Fulham 10.38 Wolves 12.63

There are two teams top of the pile for the toughest next eight fixtures – Crystal Palace and Everton – with their opponents’ league position across this period averaging 9.25.

Fixtures and opponents’ current league position
MW Crystal Palace Everton
13 Luton (A) 17th Man Utd (H) 6th
14 West Ham (A) 9th Nott’m Forest (A) 14th
15 AFC Bournemouth (H) 16th Newcastle (H) 7th
16 Liverpool (H) 2nd Chelsea (H) 10th
17 Man City (A) 1st Burnley (A) 20th
18 Brighton (H) 8th Spurs (A) 4th
19 Chelsea (A) 10th Man City (H) 1st
20 Brentford (H) 11th Wolves (A) 12th

While Palace’s next three fixtures are against Luton Town, West Ham United and AFC Bournemouth, it then gets much harder for Roy Hodgson‘s men.

They face back-to-back matches against the top two teams, Liverpool and Manchester City, before facing Brighton & Hove Albion, Chelsea and Brentford.

Hodgson will at least take heart from the return to fitness of key attacking players Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise.

Sean Dyche‘s Everton also face champions Man City in a tough run of matches including showdowns with Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United, Newcastle United and Chelsea.

Those challenges will make the Toffees particularly keen to pick up points when they face Nottingham Forest, Wolverhampton Wanderers and bottom club Burnley.

Opportunity knocks

At the other end of the scale, Wolves and Chelsea have the “easiest” set of fixtures and can look to maintain their strong recent results, with their next eight opponents averaging a league position of 12.63 and 12.5 respectively.

Fixtures and opponents’ current league position
MW Wolves Chelsea
13 Fulham (A) 15th Newcastle (A) 7th
14 Arsenal (A) 3rd Brighton (H) 8th
15 Burnley (H) 20th Man Utd (A) 6th
16 Nott’m Forest (H) 14th Everton (A) 19th
17 West Ham (A) 9th Sheff Utd (H) 18th
18 Chelsea (H) 10th Wolves (A) 12th
19 Brentford (A) 11th Crystal Palace (H) 13th
20 Everton (H) 19th Luton (A) 17th

Wolves have recovered from a sticky start to the season and have beaten Man City and Spurs in an impressive seven-match run featuring only one defeat.

Now six of Wolves’ next eight matches are against teams placed 10th in the table or below, starting with a trip to 15th-placed Fulham.

While they have a tricky trip to Arsenal, that is followed by successive home matches against Burnley and Nott’m Forest, who have only two away wins between them this season.

Thereafter, Gary O’Neil‘s side face a trio of matches against London sides – with trips to West Ham and Brentford either side of Chelsea at home – before finishing the calendar year against Everton at Molineux. 

Similarly, a difficult start to the season for Chelsea has taken a positive turn, with the Blues buoyed by a thrilling 4-1 win at Spurs and 4-4 home draw with Man City.

See: The BEST matches of the season so far

The next three matches are awkward, against Newcastle, Brighton and Man Utd.

But Mauricio Pochettino‘s side will look to surge up the table during a period where they face three of the bottom four teams.

See: How Pochettino’s vision is coming together for Chelsea

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