We can take a brief break in the build-up to today's Group C matches to look at Liverpool's schedule for the upcoming Premier League season, which will kick off for Brendan Rodgers' side in the West Midlands. It'll be a challenging (to say the least) opening few weeks, particularly if Europa League matches are thrown into the mix, but what better way to start the season than against some of the league's best? Oh, against mostly weaker opposition you say? To allow time for settling into a new style of play and new staff? Nah.
You can find the full list at the offal, but I've gone ahead and plucked some of the standout fixtures from each month with a brief comment. Early they're all significant, and this season that's not just a product of being excited about another season starting. Some really important and challenging matches to start the club's season, especially at Anfield. Picking these out certainly isn't a dismissal of the other squads on Liverpool's calendar---their struggles against supposed "lesser" clubs was a major failing point as they slid down the table, and as is typically the case, Liverpool's final position in league will likely be decided by many of the matches that aren't listed below. This is mostly a look at the fixtures that stand out for sentiment or tradition, and what constitutes standing out pragmatically might be very different later in the summer and into the season.
But for now, these are the ones that catch the eye. As usual, all fixtures subject to change etc. etc., and depending on progress in Europe and in domestic cup competition, there could be (and probably will be) some significant rearranging to do.
August: West Brom (A), Aug. 18; Manchester City (H), Aug. 25
Liverpool managed a win at the Hawthorns last season, and after starting the past two seasons at home, they'll begin the 2012-2013 campaign by visiting Steve Clarke's West Brom. Should be interesting to see how Clarke prepares his squad given his familiarity with many of Liverpool's personnel, but there's no telling what those same faces might look like in a new system. A week later it's back to Anfield to host the league champions, which gives Brendan Rodgers his first chance at making "coming to Anfield the longest 90 minutes of an opponent’s life." No better squad to do it against than the league's best.
September: Arsenal (H), Sep. 1; Manchester United (H), Sep. 22
Twice in the past two seasons Liverpool have dropped points in disappointing fashion against Arsenal at Anfield---two years ago it was a Pepe Reina clanger late that allowed the London side to steal two points, and back in March it was Robin van Persie's injury-time winner that gave Arsenal the win. After a visit to the Northeast it's back home to play host in the biggest match for many on any year's Liverpool calendar, with Alex Ferguson and United coming to town. In less than one month, Liverpool face last season's top three. Nervous isn't the word.
October: Everton (A), Oct. 27
The first Merseyside Derby of the year takes place at Goodison as the second match back after October's international break. Liverpool won all three meetings this season, so there'll surely be plenty of fodder for the home supporters in what's always a volatile fixture.
November: Chelsea (A), Nov. 10; Swansea (A), Nov. 24; Tottenham (A), Nov. 27
A packed November includes three of the more challenging away fixtures Liverpool will play all season. They won twice at Stamford Bridge last season, but that was with Kenny Dalglish at the helm, and Kenny Dalglish just doesn't lose to Chelsea. Except in the FA Cup Finalboohiss. Two weeks later they're off to Brendan Rodgers' old club, who---as Ian Darke would say---quite literally passed Liverpool to death to finish off last season. With Michael Laudrup at the helm and assurances from Huw Jenkins that the club will continue with the foundations laid by Roberto Martinez and Rodgers, it'll be tough task. They round off the month with a trip to White Hart Lane, the site of last year's worst loss, to face the currently manager-less Spurs.
December: Southampton (H), Dec. 1; West Ham (A), Dec. 8; Villa (H), Dec. 15; Fulham (H), Dec. 22; Stoke (A), Dec. 26; QPR (A), Dec. 30
The month as a whole is worth commenting on, partly because it's packed, partly because it's a month that should see Liverpool hoarding points, and partly because it'll look differently if Liverpool make it to the group stages of the Europa. Six fixtures in league, two against newly promoted sides, and two against relegation escapees from last season. Throw into the mix that Liverpool faced nearly the exact same scenario last December, and we're looking at another potential make-or-break month. With Liverpool's winter struggles over the past few seasons, this one's just as crucial as any other.
January: Manchester United (A), Jan. 12; Arsenal (A), Jan. 29
This one's a mirror image of September, with the opposition and host stadiums flipped on their heads. Liverpool finally broke the Emirates jinx last season when Arsenal were flailing badly to open the year, but they haven't won at Old Trafford (and lost four in all competitions) since Fabio Aurelio was last functional in 2009.
February: Manchester City (A), Feb. 2; West Brom (H), Feb. 9; Swansea (H), Feb. 23
Again, a month that's packed with interesting matchups. A trip to City of Manchester Stadium kicks it off, and that's followed by Clarke's West Brom coming to Liverpool a week later, and it's all wrapped up two weeks later with Laudrup and Swansea's visit.
March: Tottenham (H), Mar. 9
There's a few other fixtures during the month of March that should see Liverpool gathering points---Wigan, Southampton, and Villa round things out---so Spurs provide the biggest challenge at first glance. It's been two years since Liverpool earned all three points in this fixture, and that'd provide a boost for the rest of the month and kicking onto the final stretch.
April: Chelsea (H), Apr. 20; Newcastle United (A), Apr. 27
Two fixtures from the past season that saw results on opposite ends of the spectrum, and two fixtures that might go a long way in determining where Liverpool finishes. Chelsea were checked out last time they visited Anfield and Liverpool eased to victory, but the trip to St. James' Park was one of the club's worst showings all season. Hoping for more of the same against Chelsea and a very different approach against a side that will likely be in the mix near the top of the table yet again.
May: Everton (H), May 4; Queens Park Rangers (H), May 19
A trip to Fulham---which has been a big bogey fixture for Liverpool over the past few seasons---breaks up two home matches to round off the season, first with Everton visiting for the second (at least second scheduled) derby of the year, and the final match of the league season against QPR.
So that's that for a not so brief look at the coming season, which is rapidly approaching. The preseason trip to the US is a month away, and the first Europa League fixtures will be here before we know it. Right now anything's possible, and if we're saying that six months from now, we'll have seen Liverpool fight their way through a difficult early season run. If we're not, at least we'll be drunk.