LONDON: Publication of the schedule for the 2017-18 Premier League season created more questions than available answers.
Champions Chelsea start their campaign at home to Burnley on the weekend of August 12/13 then travel a mere few miles to Wembley the following weekend to face Tottenham in Spurs’ season-long temporary home.
The weekend of December 9/10 sees the Liverpool/Manchester derbies with Jurgen Klopp & Co hosting Everton and City visiting United. The returns are scheduled for April 7/8.
Klopp and his fellow managers, as usual, will be kept busy over the Christmas and New Year period with four matches over 10 days between December 23 and January 1. Arsenal v Chelsea is the pick of the show on New Year’s Day.
The Premier League’s German managers both start the season away from home: Klopp’s Liverpool at Watford and David Wagner’s Huddersfield making their appearance back among the elite since 1972 at Crystal Palace.
However fans planning their travel schedule should wait before booking their travel and accommodation. The fixtures list will look very different once television demands and European fixture schedules have been factored in to the equation.
Television has a further question to answer after Sky, the major satellite broadcaster, reported that its Premier League audiences fell by 14pc last season.
Sky, which pays £11m to screen each of its 126 matches per season, has claimed that the figures represent a change in viewing habits, with increasing numbers watching sport on mobile or digital devices.
Not that the Premier chairmen are worried. A league spokesman said: “This past season stadiums were a record 96.5pc full, unique broadcasting reach in the UK was up 2pc on the previous season and matches were available to watch in one billion homes in 188 countries.”
TV habits may be shifting, football popularity apparently not.
Arsenal v Leicester City
Brighton and Hove Albion v Manchester City
Chelsea v Burnley
Crystal Palace v Huddersfield Town
Everton v Stoke City
Manchester United v West Ham United
Newcastle United v Tottenham Hotspur
Southampton v Swansea City
Watford v Liverpool
West Bromwich Albion v AFC Bournemouth