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Thursday 20 June 2013

Opening fixtures: Mourinho expects emotional return

Which player was so excited about the fixtures list coming out he lost sleep? Find out here

  • Jose Mourinho: Chelsea face an "emotional but hard start" against Hull City

  • Peter Ramage was "up like a little kid" in anticipation of Crystal Palace's fixtures

  • Stoke boss Mark Hughes says a "tough" start reflects the Premier League's strength

  • Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio: "It's fantastic to start in front of our own fans"

  • Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand relishes the defending champions' "lively" start

  • West Brom are hoping to earn their third consecutive win against Southampton

  • But Saints captain Adam Lallana intends to start with a win against the Baggies

  • Cardiff captain Mark Hudson (centre) looks forward to a "massive" clash with Swansea

Jose Mourinho has predicted an "emotional but hard start" to the Barclays Premier League season, while Manchester United captain Rio Ferdinand experienced "chills" when discovering next season's fixture list.

With cyberspace abuzz with manager and player reaction to the schedule for the 2013/14 campaign, we have picked out some choice quotes from some of the top flight's major protagonists.

Chelsea v Hull City

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho: “Starting the season at home is a great way for our supporters to show the players they are ready to be behind the team all the way, and at the same time it is a great way for the players to show how much they are motivated and committed.

"I am so happy to start at the Bridge... it is an emotional but a hard start"
Jose Mourinho

“I am so happy to start at the Bridge, but at the same time Hull City is a team who were promoted from the Championship and they will have that spirit, even if now they are in the Premier League. So it is an emotional but a hard start.

“I wish every club well for the season and I especially hope we can all make it a great competition for Premier League fans all around the world.”

Hull City midfielder David Meyler: “You look at the list and you see the first two away games are against Chelsea and Manchester City, so it’s going to be tough.”

“We’ve got the likes of Manchester United and Manchester City coming to the KC and it’s going to be brilliant. It’s great for the city of Hull and it’s going to be great for the players as well.

“I’m sure the manager will have us all fired up and ready to go for that opening game against Chelsea. Jose Mourinho will do the same with his players and they’ll be hoping to win the league. It will be tough, but maybe we can spoil his party.”

Crystal Palace v Tottenham Hotspur

Crystal Palace defender Peter Ramage said: “I was up like a little kid at 6.30 this morning – I couldn’t sleep last night thinking about the fixtures! I just thought, ‘oh, I’m going to get up’ and watched Sky Sports until they came out.

"I was up like a little kid at 6.30 this morning – I couldn’t sleep last night thinking about the fixtures!"
Peter Ramage

“It’s three really good fixtures for us to start with – Tottenham obviously at home, Stoke away and then Sunderland at home. They are proper Premier League fixtures, so it kind of hit home then that we are Premier League.”

“But I’m just champing at the bit to get going now. It’s the Premier League. To have that badge on your arm means everything to a footballer. It’s where I always dreamed about playing and I’ve been fortunate enough to play quite a few games there and now that I’m back I’ll be doing everything I can to get in that team against Spurs.”

Tottenham Hotspur Head Coach Andre Villas-Boas: “Selhurst Park is always a difficult stadium to go to, it’s a London derby and a tough start.”

“I’m looking forward to next season. I think there will be big changes in every team and the managerial changes [at Chelsea, City, United] will see different ways of playing. Other teams will look to create strong teams and we will look to do the same, and build a strong, competitive side.”

Liverpool v Stoke City

Stoke City manager Mark Hughes: “It’s not the easiest of starts when you’ve got to play Liverpool, Manchester City and teams of that ilk, but I think it just goes to show how strong the Premier League is.

“It would have been great to have got a home game on the opening weekend of the season and going to Anfield to face Liverpool will be difficult, but I bet they won’t be too pleased with having to face us in their first game.

“It will certainly be a good test of where we are and if we can produce a good performance then it will set us up for the challenges to come.”

Stoke City chief executive Tony Scholes: To start with an away trip to one of the so-called big clubs is a great way to begin our sixth campaign in the Premier League and I think it’s a good game for Mark Hughes to begin his career as Stoke manager.

“It’s a tough start as we play three of the so-called big clubs in our first five games in Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal, but we’re looking forward to the challenge.”

Sunderland v Fulham

Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio: “I’m very excited and of course it’s fantastic to start at home in front of our own fans, but there is a lot of work to do between now and Fulham; there are many steps.

“We have to integrate the new players into the team, continue to build and develop our squad and complete our pre-season training. There is a lot of hard work but we are ready for it.”

Swansea City v Manchester United

Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand told BBC Sport: "This will just really focus the guys and when we come back into pre-season we know we have to hit the ground running.

"This could be a blessing in disguise for the new manager and for the squad."

"We have a hard run of games but that is part and parcel of being a top footballer, you have to be ready at all times.

"If we finish that run of five or six games at the beginning of the season and we're in good shape, who knows what is possible."

West Bromwich Albion v Southampton

West Bromwich Albion midfielder George Thorne, @GeorgeThorne15, on Twitter: “Like the look of our fixture list! Opportunity to get off to another good start #WBA”

West Bromwich Albion manager Steve Clarke: “It’s always nice to start the season at home so I’m pleased with that.

“We took six points off Southampton last season and hopefully that run can continue – but we had to work very hard for those wins"
Steve Clarke

“We took six points off Southampton last season and hopefully that run can continue – but we had to work very hard for those wins. Southampton spent big 12 months ago and it looks as though this summer won’t be any different.

“They have already splashed the cash to sign a defender and they’re one of the teams that will be looking to improve on last season and finish above us.”

Southampton captain Adam Lallana: "It's pretty exciting when the fixtures come out, and now I'm just looking forward to the first game of the season away at West Brom.

"Last season everyone was bound to be excited about the fixtures and, with the tough start we got, people kind of wrote us off but we did quite well even though we didn't get results.

"This year it feels slightly different – you play every team twice at some point in the season, so we're more concentrated and focused on getting back for pre-season and getting out fitness up to the level it needs to be ahead of that game at West Brom.

"Everyone knows we owe them [West Brom] one after both results last season. We've got to settle a few scores but we'll go into those games with open minds and try not to think about that too much. Hopefully, we'll get the results we want."

West Ham United v Cardiff City

West Ham United manager Sam Allardyce: "The fixtures have been kind to us at the start of the season as they were last season.

"It will be important to challenge the players to try to achieve the same amount – 14 points from our first eight games – as they did last season. The ones that are important are the newly promoted sides and we've got Cardiff first game, which I think is the toughest time to get them in the whole season.

"I'm pleased that at least we are playing them at home and not away. It casts my mind back to the start of my career at West Ham and a 1-0 defeat to them in my first game and I want to make sure we don't repeat that.”

Cardiff City captain Mark Hudson: “We watched West Ham last season following their promotion from the Championship the previous year, and we saw how well they did.”

“To go there on the opening day will be a great test for us, while having Manchester City first up at home will be a massive occasion and huge for our supporters.

“Those derby fixtures are going to be something else too; we play Swansea at Cardiff City Stadium in November and then go to their place early in the New Year. To have the South Wales derby in the Premier League is fantastic and it’s something a lot of people have been looking forward to for a very long time. Those games are going to be eagerly awaited, for sure.”

To find out more from all 20 Premier League clubs, you can go to their official websites via the club profile pages on

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Key Points

  • picks out some of the best quotes from players and managers after the fixture list was announced for the 2013/14 Barclays Premier League season
  • Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho and Cardiff City captain Mark Hudson were among those eagerly anticipating the new season
  • Scroll through the fixtures from Matchweek 1 below to see opinions from players and staff