Map It Out: Previewing January & February's Fixtures

Clive Brunskill

A derby, a bogey, some Tigers, the Swans and more are on offer in January and February.

January....

1st January- Hull (Away)

A 2nd clash with Hull City brings in the New Year, this time it's at their place. The last time Hull were up, they were quite publicly humiliated by then-boss Phil Brown, who made them stay on the pitch at half time at a game against Man City, which may be the biggest memory people have of their last adventure in the PL.

As stated in a previous article, our form against them last time around was quite hit-and-miss. Being clinical with chances has been a problem for years with us, hopefully that doesn't happen this season.

Old Man U great Steve Bruce is at the helm of The Tigers now, and he's not afraid to play physical football. He has even been criticized, like another Ex-Man U player turned manager, of being TOO physical, at times, which has gotten him in trouble during his career. I feel like it's the physical sides that always give us the difficult matches, so we need to watch out here.

11th January-Stoke (Away)

Here's where the 2nd round of fixtures start, as this is our 2nd game against Stoke, with the first being our season opener.

Stoke are known for their home form, and will again give us a physical battle. Their biggest threat to us is the corners and throw ins. And if we can shut down Robert Huth and Ryan Shawcross when they come up, I think we can stop them.

18th January-Aston Villa (Home)

This exact fixture last year led to an extremely disappointing (And that's putting it lightly) 3-1 loss, due largely to Christian Benteke. As we found out, he's obviously the player Villa have built their squad around. And the main reason they stayed up is because of him.

It's interesting that Villa have let a lot of players go, with American Eric Lichaj being among them. Their other American, Brad Guzan, has been getting a lot of criticism, but as they say, a goalkeeper is only as good as his backline.

With players like Coutinho, Sturridge, and the incoming Aspas, with their pace and skill, if we can exploit that backline, we have a good chance of getting a win.

28th January-Everton (Home)

Our January concludes with a midweek match against the noisy neighbors at Mecca.

It's hard to say what kind of form they'll be in, as Rob Martinez's teams are so erratic. I still expect Man United to get Leighton Baines or Fellaini, if not both, and based on last season, without them, they're just not the same team.

A player to watch next season with them though is Seamus Coleman, who had a breakout year with the bitters and may be one of the players they build a team around, as well as Jelavic.

February...

1st February-West Brom (Away)

Our visit to the Hawthorns last year opened the season on the worst note possible. Not only a loss, but a thrashing. It was quite embarrassing to say the least, and it's where we began to learn that the physical sides are our kryptonite.

To fix this, we need to work on it in training, and have everyone hit the weights. This is where a big guy like Kolo Toure could come in handy, and by the looks of it, him and Agger will be the first choice central defenders.

8th Febuary-Arsenal (Home)

If Arsenal get Suarez (which I doubt...) their whole dynamic will change drastically. If they don't, I see them dropping out of the top 4.

A 2-0 loss was the result of this fixture last year, while a late comeback from the gunners secured a point at the Emirates in a disappointing result for us, which closed the door on our top 4 hopes well and truly.

It's form like this that gives the "Rodgers out" brigade their fuel, and calls for that clinical football.

The games against the top 4 are the most vital, and if we can get at least 3 wins from them, we can have a realistic chance of breaking back into that category. And considering Arsenal are always teetering on 4th and 5th, this and the game at the Emirates are must win games.

12th February- Fulham (Away)

4 days later we go to Craven Cottage, a place that's been relatively nice to us in the past. Maxi Rodriguez and Dan Sturridge would definitely say so.

Martin Jol, in my opinion, is a good manager, who's done excellent building his side around Dimitar Berbatov. The problem is, shut down him, and you shut down Fulham. It's easier said than done, though.

Coutinho could be instrumental in this match, as he was at Craven Cottage last year. I can see this being a good match for him.

22nd February-Swansea (Home)

Ashley Williams isn't looking forward to this fixture. The Swans close out our February, and here's hoping it'll be ending on a high note.

We need to beat teams like these, who are quite obviously now our rivals in getting where we want to go. Whether we can or not, especially with Swansea, simply depends on the day.

It doesn't bode well that we've only beaten Swansea once in the time they've been in the Premier League. They're one of our many bogey teams. Hopefully that changes, starting with this season.

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