The opening weekend
Jose Mourinho enjoys a relatively forgiving return to the Premier League, but that's not exactly the case for Steve Bruce, as Chelsea host Hull City at Stamford Bridge on the opening weekend of Aug. 17.
David Moyes begins his tenure as Manchester United manager away to Swansea City, while Manuel Pellegrini's City take on Newcastle United at Eastlands. Arsenal host Aston Villa, while Tottenham take the short trip across London to newly promoted Crystal Palace. The other promoted side, Cardiff City, also find themselves in London as they visit West Ham United. Liverpool, meanwhile, open their campaign at home to Stoke City, while Roberto Martinez's first game in charge of Everton will be at Norwich City. Paolo Di Canio starts his first full season as Sunderland manager with the visit of Fulham.
It's a tough start to Moyes' Old Trafford career as, after that trip to Swansea, United immediately host Chelsea in the season's first big showdown on the weekend of Aug. 24 before then travelling to Liverpool seven days later. After a reprieve at home to Crystal Palace, United then travel to Man City in just the fifth game of the season, on Sept. 21. The return Manchester derby is at Old Trafford on March 1.
August 31 is likely to be the first major weekend of the season as it also sees the North London derby, at the Emirates, as well as United-Liverpool. The return for both games is March 15.
Other than the United clash, Chelsea do have the opportunity to rack up points early on, with games against Everton (A) and Fulham (H) - though the home game with Aston Villa will be rescheduled due to the UEFA Super Cup tie with Bayern Munich on Aug. 30. On Sept. 28, they travel to Tottenham. Mourinho resumes his rivalry with Arsene Wenger on Dec. 21 at the Emirates, before Arsenal must make the trip to the Bridge on March 22.
Arsenal get a light enough beginning to the campaign until Nov. 2, when they play Liverpool at home and United away in successive weeks.
After the Newcastle match, Manchester City face two of the three promoted sides with games away to Cardiff and then home to Hull. Their first big test isn't until the Manchester derby on Sept. 21. On Oct. 26 it's the meeting of Pellegrini and Mourinho as Chelsea host City at Stamford Bridge.
The first Merseyside derby between Martinez and Brendan Rodgers comes as late as Nov. 23, at Goodison Park, with the return following on Jan. 28.
In successive fixtures on Nov. 30 and Dec. 3, Moyes takes on a club he could have managed, Tottenham, away and the club he used to manage, Everton, at home.
The first Tyne-Wear derby takes place Oct. 26 at the Stadium of Light. Di Canio must then travel to St James' Park on Feb. 1. In a match that could be just as interesting off the pitch as on it, Mourinho's Chelsea travel to Sunderland on Dec. 3.
The Premier League's first-ever Welsh derby between Cardiff and Swansea will be staged Nov. 2, with the return at the Liberty Stadium on Feb. 8.
The state of play
None of the promoted teams are exactly given soft landings in the Premier League, with all facing tricky opening fixtures and playing at least two of last season's top six in their opening five games. The toughest, however, is probably Cardiff's.
Apart from away trips to West Ham and Hull, their opening home games are against Manchester City, Everton and Tottenham. Hull at least get to face Norwich and Cardiff at the KC in between trips to Chelsea, Man City and Newcastle. Palace's is probably the most mixed, with trips to Stoke and Old Trafford interspersing Selhurst Park fixtures against Spurs, Sunderland and Swansea.
Arsenal, Everton and Liverpool appear to have the most favourable starts of the top teams. Given a summer that has seen change at many clubs, this could present quite an opportunity for Wenger to make an early statement. His team's first six games are Villa (H), Fulham (A), Tottenham (H), Sunderland (A), Stoke City (H) and Swansea (A).
Martinez has a similar opening period with Norwich (A), West Brom (H), Cardiff (A), Chelsea (H), West Ham (A) and Newcastle (H). Rodgers, meanwhile, has Stoke (H), Villa (A), United (H), Swansea (A), Southampton (H) and Sunderland (A) and will be expected to start strongly.
As tends to happen, many of these spells are offset by what happens later on. Liverpool have a very tough Christmas with successive trips to City and then Chelsea. They at least then face a promoted side at home in Hull City. United travel to the KC on Boxing Day before going to Norwich and then hosting Tottenham. Each of the top sides faces at least one awkward fixture over the three-game Christmas period.
Everton are the only one of last season's top seven that Moyes will face in United's last eight games. It is a run that consists of: West Ham (A), Villa (H), Newcastle (A), Hull (H), Everton (A), Norwich (H), Sunderland (H), Southampton (A). City and Chelsea, meanwhile face fairly awkward run-ins. For Pellegrini, it's Southampton (H), Liverpool (A), West Brom (H), Palace (A), Everton (A) and West Ham (H). For Mourinho, Stoke (H), Swansea (A), Sunderland (H), Liverpool (A), Norwich (H), Cardiff (A).
Chelsea are home after five of their Champions League group games, with City at the Etihad after four European fixtures. United, by contrast, stay on their travels in four, while for Arsenal it's five.
Chelsea after UCL group games: Fulham (H), Norwich (A), City (H), West Brom (H), Southampton (H) and Crystal Palace (H).
For Man City, it's: United (H), Everton (H), Chelsea (A), Sunderland (A), Swansea (H), Arsenal (H).
For Wenger: Stoke (H), West Brom (A), Palace (A), United (A), Cardiff (A), City (A).
And for Moyes: City (A), Southampton (A), Stoke (H), Arsenal (H), Cardiff (A), Villa (A).