So there it is… after loads of cogitation, anticipation and speculation, the computer has finally churned out what we already knew.
38 games. 19 home, 19 away.
No Big Brother style twists or surprises.
With the guessing game finally over we now turn our attention to deciding whether or not the computer has been kind to us. All wholly subjective of course – but those of us who desperately wanted City to begin and end the season at Carrow Road have at least had our prayers answered.
Everton at home on 17 August is indeed mouth-watering and, with Roberto Martinez now at their helm, will reveal a re-branded Toffees outfit (and I’m not just talking about their badge). In terms of approach, the solid, pragmatic, yet effective, passing style of David Moyes will – one suspects – make way to the more fluid, contemporary style that Martinez honed at Swansea and attempted, partly unsuccessfully, to refine at Wigan.
Whether the Spaniard will have had sufficient time – by the middle of August – to fully embed this style into his new group of players is doubtful, and so maybe (with straws clutched in hand) it’s no bad thing to play Everton ‘early doors’. Either way it should be one that’s pleasing on the eye, even if it does afford the visitors an opportunity to avenge the 2-1 defeat in February.
The next two games, on paper at least, appear to be of the winnable variety – a chance one hopes to lay a solid foundation for the season – although the occasion of Hull’s first game back in the Premier League promises to be both noisy and vociferous. That aside, it is certainly one that Chris Hughton will be looking to if City are to improve on last season’s miserable record of two away wins.
The home game with Southampton that follows is another where three points should be the expectation rather than the hope. Indeed, if the Saints continue to follow City’s path a year hence (as they’ve done for the last three seasons) I expect them to stutter this term as the affliction we know as ‘second season syndrome’ kicks in (still clutching those straws).
I am loathe to mention it – and I promise to stop, eventually – but those who still have beef with Paul Lambert get an early opportunity to ‘unleash’, with Villa the visitors to the fine city on 21 September.
On another positive note, City will get the, usually fruitless, trip to the Potteries out of the way fairly early on, although with one Mark Hughes now in charge at the Britannia my water tells me things are going to be different this time round.
If they are to recreate the halcyon days of October 2012 Hughton’s men are going to have to do it the hard way, with games against Chelsea (h) and Arsenal (a) before Malky Mackay brings his Championship winning Cardiff side to Carrow Road – the computer doing its very best to ensure that October 2013 is a rather less glorious.
The Christmas programme kicks off with a trip to Wearside – one hopes minus an adjudicating Chris Foy – where City can look to put right some of the wrongs that marred their last trip to Sunderland’s Stadium of Light.
Between Christmas and New Year’s Day the players – and the Yellow Army – are spared an away trip; the former being afforded the pleasure of a Christmas lunch with their families.
With Fulham (Boxing Day) and Manchester Utd (28th) both visitors ahead of our mandatory trip to the delights of Selhurst Park on 1 Jan, there is every reason to hope for rather more cheer than was on offer last season.
If nothing else, lets hope we avoid a bleak mid-winter of the 2012/13 variety. While defeats are alas part and parcel of life in the fast lane for most, if they are at least dispersed with the occasional win then life is so much easier. If I were to be granted one Premier League wish for 2013/14 it would be that we are spared the painful famine or feast existence of last term.
By the time you read this I am sure you will have been made acutely aware of City’s run-in. On the face of it Liverpool (h), Manchester Utd (a), Chelsea (a) and Arsenal (h) looks to be Hughton’s worst nightmare – only the 1-0 win over the Gunners realising anything other than defeat in 2012/13 – but recent experience shows us that the most peculiar results pop up as the season draws to a close.
While there is every reason to assume Arsene Wenger will pitch up on the last day with his men scrapping it out with Spurs over the fourth Champions League place, logic tells us we are long overdue a home win over Liverpool.
Since their return to the top flight City have produced performances, and wins, against most of the big boys but the one that, in my mind at least, is still outstanding is a victory over the Mersysiders.
How good would that be, and then the two away games that follow could indeed be considered of the bonus variety (still clutching those straws).
All of which is academic because, by my reckoning (I did predict Crystal Palace away on 1 Jan remember), City’s ticket to the Premier League of 2014/15 will have been secured courtesy of a thumping win at Craven Cottage on 12 April.
Mark my words.