We use the Opta Power Rankings to work out which teams have the most favourable and most difficult next five matches.
The way football works, everyone plays everyone twice: once at home and once away. But that doesn’t actually mean the fixture list is entirely fair.
One team might have their toughest games nicely spread out, interspersed with easier matches; another might have all of their hardest matches bunched together. One team might have to play all of their hardest matches at the start of the season, while another might have them all at the end.
That means the Premier League table after 10 games doesn’t quite paint a fully accurate picture, because each team has faced opponents of varying difficulty.
So, we’ve taken the opportunity to use our very own Power Rankings system – which assigns a score to every team in world football to rate them from best (score of 100) to worst (score of zero) – to work out how kind each team’s next five fixtures are. To do this, we’ve taken an average Power Ranking value from each side’s next five opponents to assess the difficulty of those next five games: the higher the value, the harder the fixtures.
Those five games take us up to early December. Then, down at the bottom of this page, you’ll find the relative difficulty of each team’s next 10 fixtures: their remaining games in 2023, taking in the famously busy festive period.
Most Difficult Next Five Fixtures
It’s been a rocky start to life at Chelsea for Mauricio Pochettino, and unfortunately for him, it looks like things could be set to get even tougher. His side face the most difficult next five fixtures of every team in the Premier League.
After travelling to former club Tottenham on Monday night, Pochettino hosts reigning champions and the best team in the world according to the power rankings, Manchester City. With Newcastle (a), Brighton and Hove Albion (h) and Manchester United (a) to follow, Chelsea face five of both last season’s and the current top eight in their next five matches. Admittedly, United aren’t exactly at their best right now, but they have the fourth-easiest run of upcoming matches, so by the time the Chelsea meeting comes around, they might have rediscovered some of their lost confidence.
There’s more bad news for another of this season’s strugglers, as Luton Town face the second-most difficult next five matches. In the next month, they face Liverpool (h), Man Utd (a), Crystal Palace (h), Brentford (a) and Arsenal (h). Rob Edwards’ men are in the bottom three with only one win from 10 games so far, and it doesn’t look like there will be too many more points on offer in the coming weeks.
League leaders Spurs face a test of their title credentials with a very tricky run of upcoming matches. After hosting Chelsea, they play Wolves (a) – who have recently taken points off Man City, Aston Villa and Newcastle – then Aston Villa (h), City (a) and rivals West Ham (h). They will have done very well indeed – and people might actually start talking seriously about their chances of challenging for trophies – if they are to make it through this period and still even be within touching distance of the top of the table. It’s unlikely they’ll still be top, particularly given the run of games second-placed Arsenal face.
Easiest Next Five Fixtures
Mikel Arteta’s side have the third-easiest run of matches coming up, with a difficult trip to Newcastle this weekend followed by games against two newly promoted teams in Burnley (h) and Luton (a) either side of winnable matches against Brentford (a) and Wolves (h).
However, having also had the second-easiest opening 10 matches of the campaign according to our pre-season analysis of each team’s fixtures to start 2023-24, Arsenal then face a tough run of four games to end the year, facing Aston Villa, Brighton, Liverpool and West Ham in quick succession in December.
As previously mentioned, Man Utd face a favourable run just as the pressure has started to really mount on Erik ten Hag, who has overseen a poor run of results of late. They face Fulham (a), Luton (h), Everton (a), Newcastle (a) and Chelsea (h) in their next five games, giving the manager a decent chance of, at the very least, buying himself some time in the job.
Crystal Palace have the easiest run of matches coming up, providing a good opportunity to get their season back on track. After an impressive start to the season that left them ninth after eight games, successive defeats have seen Roy Hodgson’s side slump to 13th and start looking worryingly over their shoulders. However, an upcoming run of matches against Burnley (a), Everton (h), Luton (a), West Ham (a) and Bournemouth (h) combined with the news that key creative players Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise are nearing their returns from injury give cause for optimism at Selhurst Park.
Brighton have wobbled a little of late, currently on a run of four games without a win that has seen them slip from third to seventh, but a favourable run of fixtures could get their season back on track. Roberto De Zerbi’s side face Everton (a), Sheffield United (h), Nottingham Forest (a), Chelsea (a) and Brentford (h) in their next five matches.
Fixture Difficulty: Next 10 Matches
The next 10 games – which take us up to the end of 2023 and past the halfway point in the season – are also worth a look.
Things get worse for Luton, as they jump from the second-most difficult next five games to the most difficult next 10, while Spurs’ position towards the more difficult end of the table suggests the matches they have already played were on the easier side of things.
Man City having the third-easiest run of fixtures makes for ominous reading for the pretenders currently challenging them at the top of the table. The Opta supercomputer currently says they have a 79.1% chance of retaining the title, which will in part be because they have got plenty of tough games out of the way already.
There is a long, long way to go, but the difficulty of each team’s next five – or 10 – fixtures will be crucial to how the Premier League looks come May.
Did you enjoy this? Well, you could have been sent it and much more by subscribing to our brand new and absolutely fantastic football newsletter. Stats straight to your inbox? What more could you ask for?