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Thursday 17 April 2014

Moyes and Mourinho on early collision course

Mourinho coveted the opportunity to be Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor at Manchester United but David Moyes was appointed and Mourinho returned slightly chastened from Real Madrid to Chelsea.

The Stretford End will doubtless serenade Mourinho in their usual fashion.

Mourinho has some difficult matches as the season gets underway with trips to Everton and Tottenham Hotspur in September but he kicks off with Hull City at home on Aug 17. It looks a daunting journey for Hull as Chelsea will challenge more strongly for the title this season under the old Special One. Mourinho versus Steve Bruce will certainly make for good press conferences.

The opening weekend will also see the spotlight trained on the Liberty Stadium. Swansea City fans will be hoping the inspirational Michael Laudrup has been given more funds to strengthen a side he has had such an uplifting impact on. It will also be Moyes’ opening challenge, an opportunity to prove he can keep United moving in the right direction. All eyes will be on his tactics, his style, and his ability to influence game through substitutions.

The champions have hardly been given the gentlest start. After facing Swansea and Chelsea, Moyes’ men head to Liverpool on Aug 31 and then to Manchester City on Sep 21. The Anfield collision comes on the eve of the England squad meeting up for the key World Cup qualifiers against Moldova and Ukraine. Roy Hodgson will hope that Premier League game involving Steven Gerrard, Glen Johnson, Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck, Phil Jones and others will be the early kick-off on the Saturday.

England are struggling to qualify automatically to reach Brazil and need all the help they can get from the clubs and broadcasters. The myriad problems bedevilling the national team, and particularly the player-development structure, will doubtless be overlooked in the usual frenzy over Premier League fixtures. Never mind the country’s travails at assorted age-group levels, feel the vibrant club scene.

Today’s fixtures have been eagerly awaited and conjure up all manner of intrigue. Crystal Palace’s reward for their play-off victory at Wembley is a London Derby with Tottenham Hotspur at Selhurst Park. Mark Hughes’ league start as Stoke City manager is hardly ideal, taking him to Anfield where his United and Everton connections will ensure a feisty reception. Liverpool are developing promisingly under Brendan Rodgers, particularly if his transfer targets are met, and Anfield will be full of hope for the new season, even if Luis Suarez does get his move to Real Madrid.

The test of the controversial new set-up at Newcastle is immediate, coming with a visit to Manchester City, who should be an attractive unit under Manuel Pellegrini, particularly if Isco has joined.

Roberto Martinez’s start as Everton manager sees him away at Norwich City while Paolo Di Canio’s hopes for a positive beginning to what could be an edgy season has his Sunderland side entertaining Fulham. West Brom are at home to Southampton while Arsenal take on Aston Villa at the Emirates.

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