Fixture difficulty: Which clubs have the toughest - and easiest - start to the new season?

Fixture difficulty: Which clubs have the toughest – and easiest – start to the new season?

The ‘big five’ European leagues have released their schedules for the 2021-22 season so we have analysed the fixture difficulty for them all.

While every team has to play everyone else at some point, timing can be everything. A tough start can easily undermine a positive pre-season, while a gentle run of opening fixtures can provide the momentum necessary for a successful campaign.

Either scenario can paint a misleading picture of a team’s true strength and create opportunities for the informed bettor.

The graphic below breaks down each club’s first 10 fixtures based on the strength of their opponents according to the bwin football odds. The resulting patterns highlight tough and easy runs of games during the first three months of the season.

Premier League

The two Manchester clubs could experience very different starts to the season. Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City are the clear favourites in the Premier League winner odds but have to face five of the predicted top seven in their first seven matches, so better value may be found a few weeks into the season. Neighbours Manchester United do not meet any of these teams until their eighth match.

Patrick Vieira has been handed a tough start to life at Crystal Palace, with six of his first 10 Premier League matches as manager pitting him against one of the seven strongest teams in the league. They are already one of the leading contenders in the Premier League relegation odds and their price could drop further if they make a slow start.

La Liga

The fixture schedule has given Real Madrid – title favourites with Carlo Ancelotti in charge again – a great chance of setting the pace in Spain this season, with no matches against the six strongest clubs until the seventh round.

The first El Clásico of the season awaits in their 10th match which will only be their second game of the season against one of the expected top six, but Barcelona’s fourth.

Granada, meanwhile, could find themselves near the foot of the table early on, as five of their first nine matches are against clubs expected to challenge for Champions League football.

Serie A

Napoli could fly out of the traps as three of their first four league games see them face clubs who are expected to struggle. Three of Juventus’ first five matches look similarly easy on paper, which could fuel optimism of recapturing the title and they are the favourites in the Serie A winner odds.

In terms of fixture difficulty, spare a thought for Sampdoria, who have to face five of the six strongest teams in their first 10 league matches, including four of them in their opening six fixtures.

Bundesliga

Leipzig found themselves at the top of the table in the early part of last season and could do so again this time around. Their clash with Bayern Munich – who are bidding for a 10th straight title – in the fourth round of matches is the only one of their first 10 fixtures which sees them face a club expected to finish in the top five.

Union Berlin finished in an impressive seventh place last season but should not panic if they find themselves sitting much lower early on this time around. Three of their first five games are against strong opposition, so they are unlikely to have a fast start to their campaign due to their fixture difficulty.

Ligue 1

It was rare to see a team other than PSG top the table last season and it is possible that this could be repeated in the coming months. Both Lyon and Monaco have three very winnable fixtures among their first four so could maintain perfect records before tougher games start to bite.

Fans of Nantes should not be discouraged if their team is propping up the table early on. Four of their first five league matches put them against clubs who are among the seven strongest, so a poor start would not necessarily be a sign of things to come.

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