Belfast Telegraph

Liverpool fixtures leave Rodgers favourite for the sack from Anfield

By Graham Luney

The pressure is already back on Brendan Rodgers' shoulders after the 2015-2016 Premier League fixture list handed the Liverpool boss a nightmare start.

Rodgers escaped the axe following an end-of-season review at Anfield but he couldn't have been handed a tougher opening to his next league campaign - and he's now the bookmakers' favourite to be the first manager sacked.

All Liverpool's first seven away games represent formidable tests and the Carnlough man, who must appoint new backroom staff after the departures of Colin Pascoe and Mike Marsh, will be under considerable pressure to weather early storms.

The Reds kick-off their campaign at Stoke City who thrashed them 6-1 at the Britannia Stadium at the end of last season.

Rodgers then faces trips on the road to Arsenal, Manchester United, Everton, Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester City.

Former Liverpool forward John Aldridge summed up the concern of many fans when he commented on Twitter: "Can't believe our away game start to the season!! It looks like it's been hand-picked by our worse enemy!!!!! Must win our home games."

England internationals James Milner and Danny Ings are joining Liverpool but, arguably, their greatest ever player, Steven Gerrard, has left the club and Raheem Sterling is also expected to leave with Manchester City offering an improved bid for the winger.

Rodgers’ position is further weakened by former Borussia Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp’s decision to take a break from football, leaving him out of work in the first half of the campaign.

 Reds legend Jamie Carragher joked that his Sky colleague and former Manchester United favourite Gary Neville must have been involved in the selection of the fixtures.

Carragher tweeted: “Didn’t think Sky had a say in the fixtures but @GNev2 must have been involved in picking Liverpool’s first 7 away games.”

The fixture list has at least been kind to the Reds in relation to their European programme, with five matches at home following Europa League ties and the sixth is the derby at Goodison Park.

Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge, currently undergoing rehabilitation in the United States after surgery on a hip injury which is likely to rule him out of most of those seven tough away fixtures, is remaining positive.

“Just saw next season’s fixtures. I’m excited right now. Working hard to help bring my team some success next season,” he wrote on Twitter.

Following the trip to Stoke, Liverpool will host newly promoted Bournemouth, who begin their first Premier League campaign at home to Aston Villa.

Champions Chelsea will start the defence of their Premier League title against Swansea.

Jose Mourinho’s men finished eight points clear at the top last season and open at Stamford Bridge against Garry Monk’s side on August 8.

Manchester United’s home game with Tottenham is the stand-out clash of the opening weekend.

Manchester City start with a game against West Brom at The Hawthornes while Arsenal kick-off against new West Ham boss Slaven Bilic at the Emirates.

Elsewhere, Steve McClaren first game in charge of Newcastle after joining  the Magpies last week will be a home game against  Southampton.

Leicester host Sunderland while play-off winners Norwich welcome Crystal Palace while newly-promoted Watford go to Everton.

Once the opening weekend is out of the way, Chelsea head to Manchester City for an early-season blockbuster, followed by clashes at Wes Brom and at home to Crystal Palace.

Opening day fixtures (Saturday, August 8, suject to change for television): Bournemouth v Aston Villa, Arsenal v West Ham United, Chelsea v Swansea City, Everton v Watford, Leicester City v Sunderland, Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur, Newcastle United v Southampton, Norwich City v Crystal Palace, Stoke City v Liverpool, West Bromwich Albion v Manchester City.

Liverpool’s first 13 fixtures: August 8: Stoke City (A); August 15: Bournemouth (H); August 22: Arsenal (A); August 29: West Ham United (H); September 12: Manchester United (A); September 19: Norwich (H); September 26: Aston Villa (H); October 3: Everton (A); October 17: Tottenham (A); October 24: Southampton (H); October 31: Chelsea (A); November 7: Crystal Palace (H); November 21: Manchester City (A).

Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere has been fined £40,000 and severely warned as to his future conduct after admitting a charge of misconduct, the Football Association has announced.

The England international sang anti-Tottenham chants during the club’s FA Cup victory parade, taking to the microphone to mock the Gunners’ rivals with a foul-mouthed taunt as the players celebrated on a stage outside the Emirates Stadium on May 31.

Belfast Telegraph


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