We look at the positives and negatives the fixture computer has thrown up for Liverpool’s 2016/17 season, with a hugely testing start but a potentially rewarding run-in for the Reds.
The Premier League’s notorious random fixture generator has spoken.
The equations have been done, the dates finalised (until the TV companies rearrange it all again) and the Reds now know the journey they will embark on as they look for a year of better of fortunes in Jurgen Klopp’s first full season in charge.
Nothing is ever won on the fixture list, but the order of it can shape the season and play a role in motivation for the campaign ahead, and it certainly will for Liverpool once again.
Every club hopes for a smooth start to the new campaign, but the Reds have been handed anything but, being well and truly thrown in at the deep end.
Though always scheduled to open the season away from Anfield due to the Main Stand building works, starting at Arsenal – where Liverpool have won just once in the last 16 visits – couldn’t have been much tougher.
Followed by a clash with Burnley – which may take place at Turf Moor due to the on-going Anfield renovation – Sean Dyche’s side will be up for the visit of Klopp’s men in the first ‘big-game’ of their top-flight return.
But with the fixtures thereafter, the possible trip to Lancashire must be one that proves rewarding for Liverpool, with three incredibly testing games next up against Tottenham, Leicester and Chelsea to complete the opening five games.
With such a run, Klopp’s men face an early battle to stay in touch with the leading pack, with Jose Mourinhos’ Man United, Pep Guardiola’s Man City and Antonio Conte’s Chelsea facing favourable starts in comparison to the Reds’.
The end of September and the first six games sees Hull arrive at Anfield, another contest Klopp’s side simply must take full advantage of.
While it’s as close to a nightmare start as you’ll find, the group must see it as an opportunity to put down an early marker that they mean business this season, with the chance to send out an early message to rivals.
If Liverpool can hit the ground running, they would be positioned extremely positively for a strong first half to the season, ahead of what promises to be a tough Christmas period and start to the new year.
The Reds face some tough games over the festive period, but crucially, the power of Anfield and home comforts will be available to help Klopp’s men through the physically testing spell.
The first Merseyside derby of the season against Ronald Koeman’s Blues at Goodison Park eight days before Christmas preempts the festive fixtures, giving the Reds some of the valuable training ground time Klopp has spoken of ahead of the quick-fire games.
Stoke arrive in L4 on Boxing Day, before the Reds welcome City for a mouth-watering clash to round off 2016, which is followed sharply by a trip to Sunderland for the start of the new year.
They are each tough games in a testing period, but a lack of travelling – with the derby clash being followed by successive home games – could really benefit Klopp’s side, who will need to use Anfield to their advantage ahead of the Stadium of Light visit in January.
There’s a chance for Liverpool to grind through the exciting but demanding schedule on home turf, which if they can emerge from in a promising position, may well prove crucial ahead of a testing opening to 2017.
For points and psychological reasons, the Reds have a real opportunity to set themselves up for a strong second half to the season, which features a run-in that will really inspire motivation for a powerful finish.
If Liverpool can keep in touch with the top sides ahead of April – should they not be leading the way by this point for the optimistic among you – Klopp’s side enter the closing stages of the campaign with a real favourable run-in.
First, the Reds face two difficult months in February and March which includes reverse games with Chelsea, Spurs and Leicester before meetings with Arsenal and Man City as spring arrives, which will determine Liverpool’s place on the track for the sprint finish.
But after those challenging months, the Reds end the campaign with nine winnable final fixtures to position themselves in the mix at the business end – motivation to ensure they are there or thereabouts.
Though the Merseyside derby at the opening of April will be a tough start to that run, five extremely winnable matches against Bournemouth, Stoke, West Brom, Crystal Palace and Watford present ahead of the last three games in May.
If Klopp and his squad can come through those matches boasting a positive position, they face a kind ending to the season against newcomers, Middlesbrough, which will hopefully see the perfect end to a productive season.
For Liverpool, it is all about keeping themselves in with a shout of obtaining next season’s targets come April’s business end.
If they can, Klopp and his players will have a big opportunity to turn ambitions to reality with the run-in that awaits, which could see an enjoyable season play out at Anfield.