Brendan Rodgers will have to demonstrate immediate improvement at Liverpool as his team have been assigned a daunting set of away matches at the start of the new Premier League campaign.
They kick off at Stoke City – where they were walloped 6-1 on the final day of last season - and their next six away games threaten to be even tougher, bringing visits to Arsenal, Manchester United, Everton, Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester City.
May’s defeat at the Britannia Stadium was Liverpool’s heaviest in the league since 1963 and compounded doubts about Rodgers’ ability to stimulate an upswing.
The club have decided to keep faith with the Northern Irishman but Rodgers must hire new backroom staff as his long-time assistant,
, has been released, along with the first-team coach,
Liverpool also need to recruit several players to address shortcomings in a squad that finished sixth last season.
Liverpool’s first match at Anfield will be against the winners of the Championship, Bournemouth, who begin their campaign at home to Aston Villa. Norwich City will mark their return to the top flight by hosting Crystal Palace, while Watford will take on Everton at Goodison Park.
The champions, Chelsea, start at home to Swansea City but the following week brings an early-season crunch match as José Mourinho’s team travel to Manchester City for a game that will give an indication of the ability of Manuel Pellegrini’s side to mount a stronger title challenge. City start their season at West Bromwich Albion.
Arsenal host Slaven Bilic’s West Ham in their first match before travelling to Crystal Palace. Their third game is at home to Liverpool.
Arsène Wenger’s side may have won the FA Cup for the second season in a row but the supporters will demand better in the Premier League and Champions League next season and that mission has been made more difficult by a fixture list that has scheduled several tough domestic matches either side of European games.
They must take on Chelsea at Stamford Bridge after their first Champions League group game and host Manchester United after the second.
They host Everton and Tottenham after subsequent group games.
They would also have to contend with a trip to Manchester City between either leg of a Champions League semi-final, if they make it that far.
Harry Kane, meanwhile, is scheduled to be in action at Old Trafford on the first day of the season, though whether he will be with Tottenham or Manchester United remains to be seen, with Louis van Gaal reportedly keen to buy the Spurs striker.
Steve McClaren faces a difficult start as Newcastle United manager, beginning with a home game against Southampton before visits to Swansea and Manchester United and a home match against Arsenal. Guardian Service