We've ranked the difficulty of each club's start to the Premier League - it's not good news for Leicester


With England's Euro 2016 disaster starting to slip from memory, the focus of attention is turning to the new Premier League season and whether champions Leicester can extend their feel-good story into the new campaign.

The Foxes will almost certainly need a fast start if they are to have any chance of upsetting the odds again, so we locked our statistical boffins away in a room after the release of the fixture list to determine what chance Leicester have of getting off to a flier.

Claudio Ranieri

They emerged with more information than we asked for, delivering a ranking for every single club's start to the season - the six games up until the end of September - and the stats make for some pretty interesting reading.

The system uses a mix of historical data - most significantly home-and-away form over the past three seasons, but also form after short breaks, which the start of the season is full of due to European and League Cup football.

Bookmakers' odds have also been factored in, which means the ratings take into account the influence of new signings and coaches.

Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho

Each Premier League fixture has been given a difficulty ranking - for instance a trip to Manchester City is ranked as the hardest away game - then we've added up the difficulty of each club's six games and, hey presto, we have our guide.

Still with us? Okay, here's every club's start to the season ranked from easiest through to the toughest:

20. Everton

Start: Tottenham (h), West Brom (a), Stoke (h), Sunderland (a), Middlesbrough (h), Bournemouth (a).

Everton manager Ronald Koeman

New boss Ronald Koeman is tasked with reviving Everton's fortunes after a disappointing campaign last season. Improving home form will be top of his to-do list and the opening-day arrival of Tottenham will be no easy task, as Spurs rank as the second-hardest visitors. Everton's start thereafter should raise expectations on Merseyside.

They were also impressive after short breaks last season, too - winning eight of 13 games after a four-day break or less.

19. Crystal Palace

Start: West Brom (h), Tottenham (a), Bournemouth (a), Middlesbrough (a), Stoke (h), Sunderland (a).

Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew

Was Alan Pardew unlucky not to be a part of the conversation for the England manager post? If he thinks so then Palace's draw to start the season should give him ample opportunity to remind everyone of the progress being made at Selhurst Park. The Eagles made a fast start last season - they were sixth at Christmas - before a dramatic slide down the league table. Still, they finished the season as runners-up in the FA Cup, and the squad should be well rested as few played at Euro 2016.

They do have a run of three away games, but Palace have been better away from home since their Premier League return - and the trips to Bournemouth, Middlesbrough and Sunderland rank inside the top-six easiest this season.

18. West Brom

Start: Palace (a), Everton (h), Middlesbrough (h), Bournemouth (a), West Ham (h), Stoke (a).

West Brom midfielder Darren Fletcher

The last time West Brom were away on the opening day was six years ago, when they lost 6-0 to Chelsea. This year they head back to the capital to play Crystal Palace, where they kick off a start that sees them play three teams that finished in the bottom half last season - plus newly promoted Middlesbrough.

West Ham are the highest-ranked team West Brom meet during their start, and that match would fall after the Hammers' first Europa League group game should the east Londoners get to that stage. The Baggies need to make a fast start.

17. Tottenham

Start: Everton (a), Palace (h), Liverpool (h), Stoke (a), Sunderland (h), Middlesbrough (a).

Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane

Tottenham appear to have the most comfortable start to the season out of the title contenders. That will be welcome news to boss Mauricio Pochettino as he looks to meet the extra demands of Champions League football. Spurs start with an away trip to an Everton side that struggled at home last season, and then they have back-to-back home games. The second of those is their toughest fixture - against Liverpool - which ended 0-0 last season and was Reds manager Jurgen Klopp's first game in charge. Spurs are at home to Sunderland after their opening Champions League group match.

16. Middlesbrough

Start: Stoke (h), Sunderland (a), West Brom (a), Palace (h), Everton (a), Tottenham (h).

Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka

Aitor Karanka has been busy in the summer transfer market so he can allow his squad to gel ahead of the start of the season. With the run they've got to start with, there's every chance that Boro could hit the ground running.

Stoke and Tottenham are the only top-half clubs from last season that they meet before the end of September - and both of those games are at home. Boro also have plenty of experience with short turnarounds between games after coming up from the Championship last season.

15. Manchester United

Start: Bournemouth (a), Southampton (h), Hull (a), Man City (h), Watford (a), Leicester (h).

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

When David Moyes took over at Manchester United he complained that the run of fixtures his side faced to start their season could not have been any harder. Jose Mourinho can have no such grumbles, aside from an early Manchester derby against his old rival Pep Guardiola - although even that is at Old Trafford.

The opening-day trip to Bournemouth is tricky - United lost there last season - and none of their first three home games should be straightforward, with Southampton and champions Leicester visiting either side of that City blockbuster. United are at Watford after their opening Champions League match. Mourinho will surely expect a strong start.

14. Burnley

Start: Swansea (h), Liverpool (h), Chelsea (a), Hull (h), Leicester (a), Watford (h).

Sean Dyche

Burnley boss Sean Dyche hardly needs telling that there are no easy games in the Premier League, but he would still have welcomed the fixture list handing his side three of their first four games at home. It's a chance to pick up early points against Swansea and Hull, while the visit of Liverpool offers some Premier League stardust for the fans early on. Their only two away trips before the end of September are at the two most recent champions in Chelsea and Leicester - who they handily meet after the Foxes' first midweek Champions League clash.

13. Stoke

Start: Middlesbrough (a), Man City (h), Everton (a), Tottenham (h), Palace (a), West Brom (h).

Marko Arnautovic

Stoke face a testing opener as they travel to Middlesbrough for the North East club's return to the Premier League after seven years. And they could hardly have asked for two tougher matches to start their home campaign - against Manchester City and Tottenham. The Potters' other two away games are against clubs that struggled for consistency at home last season - Everton and Palace - before hosting West Brom, who did win at the Bet365 Stadium early last season.

12. West Ham

Start: Chelsea (a), Bournemouth (h), Man City (a), Watford (h), West Brom (a), Southampton (h).

Olympic Stadium

The Hammers could be the busiest club in the Premier League over the first month or so as they enter the Europa League at the early stages. Should they progress to the groups, they will play a midweek fixture after every Premier League match until the end of September - aside from after their trip to Manchester City, when the international break follows. Their opening two away games are against Chelsea and City, with Bournemouth the first Premier League visitors to their new Olympic Stadium home.

11. Manchester City

Start: Sunderland (h), Stoke (a), West Ham (h), Man Utd (a), Bournemouth (h), Swansea (a).

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola

City's start is complicated by the fact that they will have to qualify for the Champions League group stage, with those European games falling before tricky matches away to Stoke and then at home to West Ham (who they lost to at the Etihad after a Champions League game early last season). The Manchester derby follows at Old Trafford and, should they reach the Champions League group stage, they'll play again before hosting Bournemouth. Pep Guardiola will expect to make a winning start against Sunderland, but the extra burden will test his squad - especially with a League Cup match thrown in before the trip to Swansea.

10. Chelsea

Start: West Ham (h), Watford (a), Burnley (h), Swansea (a), Liverpool (h), Arsenal (a).

Gary Cahill celebrates his goal against Liverpool

Chelsea are without European football, although the start to their season is cluttered. They are the only Premier League club with two five-day breaks between league fixtures in this period - and both are followed by midweek League Cup games (should they progress). A London derby against West Ham looms as a tough opener on a Monday night, as they look to shelve their home woes of last season. The next three games appear winnable before a trip to Liverpool and the visit of Arsenal - both fixtures are inside the top-10 most difficult.

9. Southampton

Start: Watford (h), Man Utd (a), Sunderland (h), Arsenal (a), Swansea (h), West Ham (a).

A Southampton fan outside St Mary's

New Southampton boss Claude Puel might have hoped for an easier introduction to the Premier League, as the Saints' first two away games are at Manchester United and Arsenal - two of the three toughest road trips. Their opening three home games are far more accommodating and the fact they return to St Mary's after their opening Europa League group game is a convenience. A trip to West Ham completes their first six games.

8. Arsenal

Start: Liverpool (h), Leicester (a), Watford (a), Southampton (h), Hull (a), Chelsea (h).

Mesut Ozil

The Gunners get started with the first blockbuster of the new season at home to Liverpool. They are the visitors for the next game, when Leicester open their title defence at home. Arsenal will be short-priced favourites in their next three games before Chelsea arrive at the Emirates. Arsene Wenger will at least be happier in the knowledge he won't have to overcome his Mourinho curse in that game. It's still a tricky start for the Gunners, especially with other title rivals having easier starts.

7. Swansea

Start: Burnley (a), Hull (h), Leicester (a), Chelsea (h), Southampton (a), Man City (h).

Andre Ayew

Swansea's opening two games are against newly relegated clubs, but their next four fixtures are among the most difficult in the league. A trip to the champions is followed by home encounters against title aspirants Chelsea and Manchester City. In-between that they are at home to Southampton, who will at least have played in Europe in midweek.

6. Bournemouth

Start: Man Utd (h), West Ham (a), Palace (a), West Brom (h), Man City (a), Everton (h).

Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe

Eddie Howe was rightfully lauded for the job he did at Bournemouth last season, but in the unforgiving environment of the Premier League the plaudits could soon run thin if he can't negotiate a tough start to the season. Mourinho's United revolution comes to town on the opening day - surely a tougher task than when the Cherries beat them last season - before they are the first Premier League visitors at the Olympic Stadium. A trip to Manchester City does arrive after the opening Champions League group match - which City *should* be involved in.

5. Liverpool

Start: Arsenal (a), Burnley (a), Tottenham (a), Leicester (h), Chelsea (a), Hull (h).

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp

We're not sure who Liverpool annoyed in the Premier League's fixture office, but their first three games are all away from home with tough trips to north London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham. Their first home game is against defending champions Leicester, and it doesn't get any easier as they then head back down to London to face Chelsea. They do have meetings with newly promoted Burnley and Hull in among that, but if they do harbour title ambitions they have the toughest early draw of any team looking to become champions (aside from Leicester!)

4. Leicester

Start: Hull (a), Arsenal (h), Swansea (h), Liverpool (a), Burnley (h), Man Utd (a).

Leicester boss Claudio Raniero kisses the Premier League trophy

Claudio Ranieri takes his champions to Hull first up in a match they will be favoured to win, but in their following five games his side plays three clubs with ambitions on the Foxes' title. Their first home game is against Arsenal - the only club to beat them at the King Power Stadium last season - before away trips to Liverpool and Manchester United. It will be an immediate test of their credentials. Their first Champions League clash is followed by a home match against newly promoted Burnley. Concern over short breaks between games as they get used to Europe can be tempered by a very good record after three or four-day breaks last season, most significantly *that* win at Manchester City.

3. Sunderland

Start: Man City (a), Middlesbrough (h), Southampton (a), Everton (h), Tottenham (a), Palace (h).

David Moyes

When David Moyes took over at United he lamented the rough luck the fixture draw had offered up at the start of that season. The Scot's luck hasn't got any better. A trip to Manchester City on the opening day is the toughest fixture he could have faced, before a home derby against recently promoted Middlesbrough. He has a tough couple of trips to Tottenham and Southampton to negotiate, and the two other teams that come to the Stadium of Light - Everton and Crystal Palace - were better away from home last season. They have three six-day breaks too, with League Cup fixtures set to be wedged in-between one, or possibly two, of those.

2. Hull

Start: Leicester (h), Swansea (a), Man Utd (h), Burnley (a), Arsenal (h), Liverpool (a).

Hull City substitutes

Hull might want to hide their starting run of fixtures from any prospective manager as they look to fill the void left by Steve Bruce. The Tigers' first three home games are against champions Leicester, then Manchester United and Arsenal - and they finish a tough start to the season at Anfield. Their best chance of picking up points appears to be on the road with trips to Swansea and Burnley, who finished 10 points above them in the Championship last season. Ouch.

1. Watford

Start: Southampton (a), Chelsea (h), Arsenal (a), West Ham (h), Man Utd (h), Burnley (a).

Watford's Manager Walter Mazzarri

New Watford boss Walter Mazzarri is set for a baptism of fire in the Premier League as his club's draw is the most difficult, according to our system. Four of their first five games are against teams that qualified for Europe last season - and the other is Chelsea. A tough start is completed with a trip to last season's Championship winners Burnley. After an opening-day trip to Southampton they face title hopefuls Chelsea and Arsenal, before a third London derby on the spin against West Ham. About the only saving grace is that Manchester United will arrive after their first midweek Champions League group game.