The Premier League has released the fixture list for the upcoming 2020/21 season, so we take a look at Albion’s run-in, where points could be won and lost, the crucial months and more importantly, the derbies…
The opening month
Leicester (H), Everton (A), Chelsea (H)
The Premier League begins later than usual this year, with Albion set to kick off their campaign on September 12th against Leicester City. This will be followed by a trip to Everton, with a visit from Frank Lampard’s Chelsea to round off the opening month.
It could be worse, but it could also be a lot better. Leicester come off the back of an amazing season where they secured themselves a fifth-placed finish and a Europa League spot. And, as we all know, Jamie Vardy loves scoring at the Hawthorns.
Everton had a somewhat bizarre season, yet look to be going places under Carlo Ancelotti. If they strengthen well in the summer, they could be a real force next season, so a trip to Goodison Park will not be the Baggies’ easiest away fixture of the season.
Chelsea are spending big again following the end of their recent transfer ban. They have already signed Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech and look set to secure German wonderkid Kai Havertz too. Wait, when’s the international break lads?
Thankfully, there are only four fixtures before the international break. And, given the ongoing economic uncertainty in football, this is when Albion look set to conclude the majority of their deals.
After this tough opening, Albion will be able to regroup during the international break, hopefully with some new signings, and prepare for what will likely be an ‘easier’ October.
Where survival could be won and lost
October: Southampton (A), Burnley (H), Brighton (A), Fulham (A)
October already looks set to be a crucial month in the Baggies’ survival bid after a rough opening round of fixtures. After playing Southampton away, Albion face three teams likely to be in and around the relegation zone throughout the season.
This includes fellow Premier League new boys Fulham, who will also be looking to capitalise on an opponent they know very well from last year’s Championship. It will not be easy but there are certainly points to be won.
December: Crystal Palace (H), Newcastle United (A), Manchester City (A), Aston Villa (H), Liverpool (A), Leeds (H)
The festive period is always crucial across the table. The club at the bottom of the table usually gets relegated and the club at the top usually wins the league.
There are definitely points to be won in December, despite facing the last three title winners away from home.
Crystal Palace, Leeds and Aston Villa at home, should Albion be up to the task, could very well present the Baggies’ with up to nine crucial points in their likely battle against relegation.
It will not be easy, especially as the latter two look set to spend big. However, barring penalty shoot-outs, Albion’s recent form against Villa has improved and of course, Leeds and Albion know one another very well from the Championship.
As for Liverpool, let’s just hope they have a crucial Champions League fixture coming up and decide to field a bunch of academy products for a laugh.
March: Newcastle United (H), Crystal Palace (A), Everton (H)
Newcastle United’s recent takeover has been rejected by the Premier League and so far, fans are not optimistic about the upcoming season.
Both Newcastle and Palace are not shoe-ins for relegation but they are likely to be in and around the bottom half, so a fixture at home presents a nice opportunity for Albion to pick up some points.
Everton have been wildly inconsistent over the years and on paper, a victory for Albion is absolutely not out of the question.
Derby Day (Delight?)
Wolves (A) – January 16th, (H) – May 1st
Villa (H) – December 19th, (A) – April 24th
Forget about Villa — West Brom are set to play in their first Black Country derby since 2012. We all remember how that one went, right? In case you have forgotten, Albion beat Wolves 1-5 at Molineux. What a day.
Wolves are a much better side now, having just come off the back of a solid Europa League campaign. Whether they can continue their recent form remains to be seen, though, with Europe’s top clubs seemingly circling them to snatch top talents like Raul Jimenez and Adama Traore.
In any case, derby day is different — form is often irrelevant, as is quality. With Albion having several academy graduates in the squad in Dara O’Shea, Romaine Sawyers, Rekeem Harper and Kyle Edwards, knowing what it means to win this derby could prove all the difference for the Baggies.
Unlike Wolves, Villa did not have a great season, staying up on the final day of the season. They plan to spend big again and could lose their key man and captain, Jack Grealish, in the process.
Spending big did not work last season and there is every reason to believe it will not again. As with Wolves, derby day’s are different, so there is everything to play for.
I am counting our lucky stars, though, and believe these four fixtures will be an easy 12 points. Who’s with me?
May: Wolverhampton Wanderers (H), Arsenal (A), Liverpool (H), West Ham (H), Leeds (A)
What a month. Why do we always seem to get Arsenal and Liverpool near the end of a Premier League campaign, especially when we’re scrapping to stay up?
The month starts off with the first Black Country derby at The Hawthorns since 2011. An easy three points, right lads?
Bilic will then be reunited with his former club, West Ham, for the penultimate game of the season, before heading off to Elland Road for what could potentially be a season-defining result for both newly promoted sides.
It is not an easy month by any stretch but there are undoubtedly points to be won. Ultimately, it could all depend on the other teams’ positions.
If Liverpool have won the league by this point, will their form stutter as it did this year? Will West Ham and Leeds also be in a relegation battle and fighting for their lives? Will Wolves be fighting for Europe?
There are too many unknowns, as with the entire fixture list — all we can do is look at current squads on paper, their likely transfer behaviour and hope for the best.
If you enjoyed this article, you might be interested in: What can Albion learn from the summer transfer window of 2010?