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English Premiership

Benitez rues headache fixtures

LIVERPOOL, Jun 18 – Rafa Benitez was left cursing the Premier League fixture computer after Liverpool were handed a Champions League headache by the schedule for the 2009-10 English season.BRAFA_BENITEZenitez’s side face a series of three tough away fixtures and two testing home matches immediately after each of the Champions League group stage matches, while their Premier League rivals have several more low-key fixtures.

The possibility of travelling across Europe for a crucial fixture in the continent’s top club competition and then returning to England for another daunting domestic game will infuriate Benitez.

The Liverpool boss was embroiled in a row with Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson last season, during which he claimed Liverpool were "handicapped" by the timings of matches.
He is unlikely to feel any better about the issue after flicking through Liverpool’s Premier League fixtures.

After the opening games of the new Champions League season on September 15/16, the Reds are set to travel to West Ham, while all of their rivals will be at home – United involved in the Manchester derby which could well be switched to a Sunday kick-off giving the league champions more recovery time.

On Matchday Two, Liverpool head to title rivals Chelsea, while again United and Arsenal are also at home.

United visit Anfield after Matchday Three, while the Merseyside derby against Everton at Goodison Park follows Matchday Five on the weekend of November 28.

Liverpool find themselves involved in another big clash after the concluding group matches in early December when Arsenal visit Anfield.

Only on Matchday Four do the Reds appear to get a break, when they host promoted Birmingham, while United travel to Stamford Bridge that weekend and Arsenal are at Wolves.

Even if Liverpool qualify for the knock-out stages, they won’t escape the fixture curse. With the second leg of the knockout round scheduled for either March 09/10 or 16/17 next year, the Reds could be faced with a trip to Old Trafford on March 20 – again another potentially decisive fixture in the domestic title race so soon after a European game.

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United and Chelsea, meanwhile, are scheduled to clash immediately after the Champions League quarter-finals first leg on March 30/31.

If still involved by the semi-final stage, which swiftly follows the FA Cup semi-finals, then Liverpool are set to travel to Chelsea – who knocked them out of Europe last season – over the penultimate weekend of the Premier League campaign.

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