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A Closer Look: The opening 10 PL matches for the Big Six

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The release of the Premier League schedule marks the start of a new season, and with that the hopes and dreams of the millions of fans around the world.

As Premier League clubs gear up or are well into a busy summer of transfers, expectations can start to be set based on the schedule and where certain games fall.

With Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham all pushing for the Premier League title, we thought it would be good to go in depth and look at how each team will open the season, focusing on the first 10 games of the campaign.

Chelsea of course won its first three games before drawing with Swansea City and losing to Liverpool and Arsenal, which allowed manager Antonio Conte to make his famous switch to the 3-5-2 formation that paid such dividends for Chelsea down the road.

While we can’t predict a future like that, here’s our take on the opening 10 games of the season for each of the top six teams.

ARSENAL

Arsenal v Leicester City
Stoke City v Arsenal
Liverpool v Arsenal
Arsenal v AFC Bournemouth
Chelsea v Arsenal
Arsenal v West Bromwich Albion
Arsenal v Brighton
Watford v Arsenal
Everton v Arsenal
Arsenal v Swansea City

Arsenal’s initial run in isn’t too bad. While it has road matches at Liverpool and at Chelsea in the opening 10 games, the only two other top-10 teams from last year Arsenal faces is Everton on the road and West Bromwich at home. With six games against bottom-ten teams, Arsenal should be able to start the season on a positive note like it has in the past.


CHELSEA

Chelsea v Burnley
Tottenham Hotspur v Chelsea
Chelsea v Everton
Leicester City v Chelsea
Chelsea v Arsenal
Stoke City v Chelsea
Chelsea v Manchester City
Crystal Palace v Chelsea
Chelsea v Watford
AFC Bournemouth v Chelsea

After facing Burnley, Chelsea faces three of the big six in Tottenham away and Arsenal and Manchester City at home as well as a pair of other London derbies at Crystal Palace and home against Watford. Having to face Tottenham so early in the season after the clubs’ physical battles in the past could be an issue if any new members of the squad haven’t adjusted to the Premier League pace at that point.


LIVERPOOL

Watford v Liverpool
Liverpool v Crystal Palace
Liverpool v Arsenal
Manchester City v Liverpool
Liverpool v Burnley
Leicester City v Liverpool
Newcastle United v Liverpool
Liverpool v Manchester United
Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool
Liverpool v Huddersfield Town

Among the big six, Liverpool has arguably the toughest run-in to start the season. Jurgen Klopp‘s side will have to navigate both the UEFA Champions League as well as two back-to-back stretches against top six sides. Matches home against Arsenal and at Manchester City early in the season is split up by an international break while in October Liverpool will host Manchester United on the weekend, play a Champions League group stage match midweek, and then travel to Tottenham the coming weekend, a grueling gauntlet of games. Klopp may want to adopt former Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez‘s rotation policy for at least that week.


MANCHESTER CITY

Brighton v Manchester City
Manchester City v Everton
AFC Bournemouth v Manchester City
Manchester City v Liverpool
Watford v Manchester City
Manchester City v Crystal Palace
Chelsea v Manchester City
Manchester City v Stoke City
Manchester City v Burnley
West Bromwich Albion v Manchester City

Like Arsenal, Manchester City have an easier start to the season, facing six teams who finished in the bottom half of the table last year as well as opening up the season against Premier League debutants Brighton and Hove Albion. Manchester City face just two of the big six, at home against Liverpool and at Chelsea, although that 11th game is against Arsenal, which could determine where each team finishes depending on the result.


MANCHESTER UNITED

Manchester United v West Ham United
Swansea City v Manchester United
Manchester United v Leicester City
Stoke City v Manchester United
Manchester United v Everton
Southampton v Manchester United
Manchester United v Crystal Palace
Liverpool v Manchester United
Huddersfield Town v Manchester United
Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur

Like its crosstown rivals, Manchester United only faces two of the big six in the opening ten fixtures, at Liverpool and home against Tottenham, both well into the season. But unlike Manchester City, the schedule is balanced with games against mid-table sides such as trips to Southampton and Stoke and home games against Everton, West Ham and Leicester City. Jose Mourinho’s side will be plenty tested heading into the Tottenham match.


TOTTENHAM

Newcastle United v Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham Hotspur v Chelsea
Tottenham Hotspur v Burnley
Everton v Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham Hotspur v Swansea City
West Ham United v Tottenham Hotspur
Huddersfield Town v Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham Hotspur v AFC Bournemouth
Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool
Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham has a difficult start and finish to its opening ten-game stretch, with more manageable games in the middle. After visiting Newcastle for the season opener and then hosting Chelsea at Wembley Stadium, Tottenham only has a trip to Everton two weeks later before the schedule lightens up, with home games against Swansea City and Bournemouth as well as trips to West Ham and Huddersfield. But the slate ends with a home match against Liverpool followed by a trip to Old Trafford to face Manchester United. If the team hasn’t shown its title-winning quality by the end of this ten-game slate, it may be too late.

Championship Focus: Bluebirds flying, Villa second-last

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The wild 46-game slate that is the Football League Championship is already howling, with all 24 teams three matches deep into their campaigns toward Premier League promotion (or avoiding relegation to League One).

The three clubs relegated from the Premier League last season all sit within the Top 8 after three match days. Sunderland is unbeaten with a win and two draws, while Hull City is 1-1-1.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

Middlesbrough has two wins from three matches, three points behind three sides who’ve started a perfect 3-0.

Wolves and Ipswich Town are two of the three, and Cardiff City leads the way. Owner Vincent Tan has seen his club score six goals without conceding once in defeats of Burton Albion, Aston Villa, and Sheffield United.

Burton is 0-3, while Steve Bruce‘s Villa is just one point better and sits 23rd.

As for individual superlatives, Bristol City’s Bobby Reid has four goals to lead the league while familiar names Lewis Grabban (Sunderland) and Abel Hernandez (Hull City) are among a quartet of players to score thrice.

Meanwhile, PL transfer target Jota of Brentford continues to impress with three assists through three matches. Will he remain in the second tier by the close of the transfer window?

MLS Snapshot: Montreal Impact 3-0 Chicago Fire

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The game in 100 words (or less)Ignacio Piatti is very good at soccer, and Chicago backstop Matt Lampson is going to see him deep into his dreams. Piatti beat Lampson up close on a turnover and then, with Montreal ahead 2-0 off a PK, the Argentine curled a surprise shot from distance around the keeper. Game, set, match, and it wasn’t even halftime. The loss keeps Chicago from using its match-in-hand to catch second place New York City FC, while the three points move Montreal to within two points of the East’s final playoff position.

Three moments that mattered

6′ — Piatti starts the party — Gifted a chance with the keeper by a sloppy missed clearing attempt, the Argentine deftly pops the ball over Fire keeper Matt Lampson.

36′ — Lampson hurts his cause — Chicago’s backstop wasn’t at fault on the opening goal, but he was for the second. After chopping down Matteo Mancosu in the box, Lampson guessed wrong on the striker’s penalty kick and the Fire went down 2-0.

38′ — It’s not your night, Lamps — Pretty sure you can anyone named Lampson, Lamps. Anyway, this time it was one of MLS’ top newcomers who set up Piatti for a goal. “Nacho” has his 12th of the season thanks to Blerim Dzemaili, and my goodness did Piatti do well here.

Man of the Match: Piatti.

Forbes ranks the top supporters in Major League Soccer

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Forbes claims the shared honor will give two Cascadia Cup rivals one less thing to argue about, but we completely disagree.

The celebrated magazine says their metrics show the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders tied for the honor of who has the best fans in Major League Soccer.

The post says the determination was made through four factors: attendance, local TV ratings, merchandise sales, and social media followers on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Attendance was weighted heaviest, which certainly gives Atlanta United hope to go charging up the rankings in the future. For now, the “Five Stripes” are not included in the list.

The Galaxy finish third in the rankings, while the sixth-place New York Red Bulls edge New York City FC by one spot.

For the report and full explanation, head here.

Europa League preview: Everton, Milan, Marseille take next steps

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The UEFA Europa League playoff round takes full flight Thursday, a day after Utrecht struck a blow for the Eredivisie with a 1-0 win over Zenit Saint-Petersburg in a Wednesday first leg.

Premier League participants Everton will be seeking a result at home against Hajduk Split, the third-place team from Croatia’s top flight.

Gylfi Sigurdsson passed his medical at Goodison Park but will not be available for Everton on Thursday.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

As for the match, manager Ronald Koeman knows the Thursday matchdays for the UEL will try his club’s endurance and depth. From EvertonFC.com:

“We know English teams have some problems. I think it is more mental than physical because if you play in the Champions League – so Wednesday and Saturday – you have the same amount of days to recover. I try to put out the strongest team to start the game. That will take into account the tactical aspects of each game. That will mean different players start and different options in terms of substitutions.”

Captained by Zoran Nizic and managed by Joan Carrillo, Hajduk has a young star in the making in the form of 19-year-old attacking midfielder Nikola Vlasic, but Everton is heavily favored at home with Hajduk given 12:1 odds by bookmakers.

[ MORE: Barca GM says Coutinho, Dembele “close” ]

Those numbers are a relative sure thing compared to AC Milan’s visitors. Macedonia club Shkendija are a 33:1 underdog for its trip to Italy.

Elsewhere, Slovenian side Domzale is a longshot at home to visiting Marseille.

Speaking of bookmakers, Arsenal won’t enter the competition until the group stage but is considered the favorite to win the UEL by a hair over Milan. Everton, Villarreal, and Athletic Bilbao are level with third-best odds.

UEFA Europa League playoff first legs
Utrecht 1-0 Zenit — Weds.
BATE Borisov vs. Oleksandriya — 1 p.m. ET Thursday
Apollon Limassol vs. Midtjylland — 1 p.m.
Krasnodar vs. Red Star Belgrade — 1 p.m.
Dinamo Zagreb vs. Skenderbeu — 1 p.m.
FH vs. Braga — 1:45 p.m. ET Thursday
PAOK vs. Ostersund — 2 p.m. ET Thursday
Vardar vs. Fenerbahce — 2 p.m.
Plzen vs. AEK Lamaca — 2:15 p.m. ET Thursday
Altach vs. Maccabi Tel-Aviv — 2:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Ludogorets Razgrad vs. Suduva — 2:30 p.m.
Panathinaikos vs. Athletic Bilbao — 2:30 p.m.
Domzale vs. Marseille — 2:45 p.m. ET Thursday
Osijek vs. Austria Wien — 2:45 p.m.
Viitorul vs. Red Bull Salzburg — 2:45 p.m.
Ajax vs. Rosenborg — 2:45 p.m.
Legia Warsaw vs. Sheriff — 2:45 p.m.
AC Milan vs. Shkendija — 2:45 p.m.
Club Brugge vs. AEK — 2:45 p.m.
Partizan vs. Videoton — 3 p.m. ET Thursday
Everton vs. Hajduk Split — 3:05 p.m. ET Thursday
Maritimo vs. Dynamo Kyiv — 3:30 p.m. ET Thursday