Manuel Pellegrini is breathing a bit easier Wednesday.
The incoming Manchester City manager was handed a mostly comfortable quartet of opening matches to begin his Eastlands career and will also be able to look forward to the prospect of hosting his first Manchester derby rather than making an early, intimidating visit to Old Trafford.
The provisional fixture list for the upcoming Barclay’s Premier League season was released Wednesday morning—which can be found on the league's official website here—and while city rivals Manchester United are in tough over the schedule’s first few weeks, City can anticipate an early lead on the reigning champions by the time they welcome them to Etihad Stadium Sept. 21.
First up for Pellegrini and a bolstered squad that already includes Fernandinho and Jesus Navas is a home date with a Newcastle side coming off a 16th-place finish that inexplicably put itself in the hands of newly appointed director of football Joe Kinnear earlier this week.
Given that he cannot even pronounce the names of many of the players in his team it’s unlikely that Kinnear, who managed the Magpies between 2008 and 2009, will have anything but a negative impact at St. James’ Park. His first match upon his return to the club following a four-year hiatus will likely have him and his side in tough from the get-go.
Following their home date with Newcastle, City will travel south to Wales for their first Premier League meeting with newly promoted Cardiff City on Aug. 24, and one week later, they’ll be back at home to host Hull City, which were also promoted from the Championship last month.
Having two promoted sides on successive matchdays is a gift unique to City in the season’s early going, and while they’re taking on the division’s new boys, Manchester United will be tasked with appointments against both Chelsea and Liverpool.
By the following weekend, the schedule will have already reached the end of September, and Pellegrini will welcome new United manager David Moyes to Eastlands for the pair’s first Manchester Derby.
In addition to Chelsea and Liverpool, United will have travelled to Swansea and hosted Crystal Palace by this point and could well be three, four or even six points off the pace by the time they line up against their local rivals.
It’s an ideal set of circumstances for Pellegrini, who will likely have even more new players in the team come August and will no doubt be thankful for a straightforward set of early matches in which to blend them.
City’s closest competitors in the table come October could well be Arsenal, which have Aston Villa, Fulham away, Tottenham Hotspur, Sunderland away and Stoke to kick off the campaign. Gunners manager Arsene Wenger is thought to have a sizeable transfer kitty at his disposal and could have a rather intimidating squad of players at his disposal by the time the season starts as well.
At the other end of the table it’s difficult to see where Aston Villa will get many of their early points.
After opening their schedule away to Arsenal, the Villains, which finished 15th last season, will face Liverpool, Chelsea away, Newcastle and Norwich away in their first five matches, and a home date with Manchester City will follow Sept. 28.
That should be good news for Pellegrini and City, who by then could well be by themselves atop the standings with an early advantage in the title race.