The 2018/19 Premier League season is now well underway. The Champions League team have, for the most part, made strong starts and our teams are full of their players.
I started looking at this from a Tottenham view point (what else would you expect?) With the draw placing us in a tricky group along with Barcelona, PSV and Inter Milan, I wanted some solace and I think I have found some!
The only team this season that will have significant travel to play a European game will be Manchester City who will be in the Ukraine on 23rd of October. European travel is just one side of the problem though. Teams will also have to manage the schedule of Premier League games before and after Champions League games.
Jose Mourinho has been critical of the scheduling in the past, while Arsenal were dealt a bad hand last year in the Europa League with five away games coming directly after their six group games.
Looking at Liverpool’s Premier League fixtures for this season, Jurgen Klopp will certainly not be happy his side’s schedule before and after Champions League games.
Away games against the likes of Spurs, Chelsea and Arsenal before playing in Europe seems bad enough, but home games against Manchester City, Everton and Manchester United directly after Champions League games most definitely rubs salt in the wounds for the German.
While Liverpool have been handed a bad set of fixtures, the same cannot be said about Tottenham.
Although Spurs play Liverpool and Chelsea before Champions League games, they do have kind fixtures against Huddersfield Town, West Ham, Wolves and Leicester City.
Fixtures immediately after playing in Europe also don’t look too bad for the club, especially with Brighton & Hove Albion, Cardiff City, Crystal Palace and Burnley on the calendar.
Spurs also face Man City and Arsenal after playing in the competition. The Arsenal game at the Emirates will be moved to a Sunday because of their participation Europa League action that week
So, who do Liverpool, City and United play before and after their Champions League games?
Before Champions’ League group games
September 15 – Liverpool (h)
September 29 – Huddersfield Town (a)
October 20 – West Ham (a)
November 4 – Wolves (a)
November 24 – Chelsea (h)
December 8 – Leicester City (a)
Only 2 home games before Champions League games for Spurs but all 4 away games are winnable. 3 of the 4 are currently scheduled for Saturday and should allow for extra rest between games.
September 15 – Spurs (a)
September 29 – Chelsea (a)
October 20 – Huddersfield Town (a)
November 3 – Arsenal (a)
November 24 – Watford (a)
December 8 – Bournemouth (a)
It doesn’t get much worse than this for The Reds. All games away from home and also include 3 of their top 4 rivals. 4 trips to the capital and a long trip to the south coast won’t do much to help either
September 15 – Fulham (h)
September 29 – Brighton & Hove Albion (h)
October 20 – Burnley (h)
November 3 – Southampton (h)
November 24 – West Ham (a)
December 8 – Chelsea (a)
City have such a strong squad that it doesn’t really matter who, where or when they play, but the fixture generator has been very kind to them. Only the Chelsea games stands out as a potential issue and they will surely have qualified from their group long before this becomes a problem.
September 15 – Watford (a)
September 29 – West Ham (a)
October 20 – Chelsea (a)
November 3 – Bournemouth (a)
November 24 – Crystal Palace (h)
December 8 – Fulham (h)
4 away games for United could be better but other than Chelsea, they are all games you would expect them to cope well with. Like Liverpool, the away games are in and around London and the south coast
After Champions’ League group games
September 22 – Brighton & Hove Albion (a)
October 6 – Cardiff City (h)
October 28 – Manchester City (h)
November 10 – Crystal Palace (a)
December 1 – Arsenal (a)
December 15 – Burnley (h)
Spurs do face 3 away games but all 3 will be in, or very close to London
September 22 – Southampton (h)
October 7 – Manchester City (h)
October 27 – Cardiff City (h)
November 11 – Fulham (h)
December 1 – Everton (h)
December 15 – Manchester United (h)
Liverpool’s fixtures after a Champions League night are much kinder from the perspective of travel but do also include a Merseyside derby, and games against the 2 Manchester clubs
September 22 – Cardiff City (a)
October 7 – Liverpool (a)
October 28 – Spurs (a)
November 11 – Manchester United (h)
December 1 – Bournemouth (h)
December 15 – Everton (h)
Much trickier this time for City away games against Spurs and Liverpool, plus a long drive down to Cardiff. United and Everton should provide a tough test too.
September 22 – Wolves (h)
October 6 – Newcastle United (h)
October 27 – Everton (h)
November 11 – Manchester City (a)
December 1 – Southampton (a)
December 15 – Liverpool (a)
3 home and 3 away for United. Other than Southampton there isn’t too much in the way of travel either. Unless they qualify early from their group they will face the prospect of 3 away games in a week, 2 of them must win games. This could see massive rotation against Fulham.
Liverpool may have been a whisker away from winning the competition in May, but they will have to pass several stern tests if they are going to get through the group. This coupled with some very unappealing fixtures either side of Champions League games could provide fantasy managers with some headaches. Games 3 and 4, when they play Red Star home and away could offer Klopp the chance to rotate his team in the cup and play a stronger line up in the league. Their start and finish to the campaign is where things could get unpredictable from an FPL perspective. Tough games in both competitions will mean something has to give.
After an ugly start to their Premier League campaign which has seen Jose Mourinho’s relationship with the fans and club hierarchy fray down to a few strings of bare thread, the Champions League was meant to provide some relief for Manchester United. Instead, the Champions’ League group stage draw has only added to their difficulties. They have been thrown into a group which, while not the definitive ‘group of death’, will nonetheless pose them serious problems.
Fulham and Palace will be the opposition before their final 2 CL games and United will return to away games at Southampton and arch rivals Liverpool. If, as many predict they need to get positive results to progress from the group, it will be interesting to see how they line up in the league against these teams.
Last season’s foray into the knockout stages of the competition ended in hair-rending frustration when, having fought hard for a draw in Italy, Spurs lost to Juventus at Wembley and were dumped out at the Round of 16. If Tottenham are going to make it that far again – or indeed even further – they will first have to navigate the thorny maze of the group stage.
Apart from his fullbacks, Poch isn’t really know for mass rotation. Even when he does mix things up he chooses not to rotate his main players. This coupled with a favourable run of fixtures both before and after Champion League games will he great news for anyone who will have Tottenham assets in their side.
Manchester City have the easiest looking group and should qualify at a canter, but as we all play Pep Roulette anyway that really doesn’t matter. We can’t predict the City line up when they only have one game a week, so I won’t even try when you add an extra one in!
The groups involving the 3 other English side could all go down to the wire and this is where player rotation could play a big part. Keep your wildcards handy, if you haven’t used them already!