Liverpool's tough start to the season could be make or break for new boss Brendan Rodgers, Tony Gale told Sky Sports News.
The Reds face last season's top three teams in their first six games of 2012/2013, and Gale believes that could be decisive in terms of whether or not Rodgers is accepted by the Liverpool fans, who had little time for Roy Hodgson after his slow start as boss.
The former Swansea boss will face former Liverpool assistant manager Steve Clarke and his West Brom team on the opening day of the season, but that's followed by home games against Manchester City and Arsenal, an away trip to Sunderland and then a home game with Manchester United at the end of September.
"Brendan will be looking at the fixtures and, after the West Brom game, those three games at home to the biggies is a tough start," he said. "They are 'make or break' really because in terms of gaining the respect of the Liverpool fans you've got to get big results against big teams, particularly at Anfield.
"Those tough games can knock the stuffing out of you early on if you're on the wrong end of the result. Just look at teams like Bolton, who had such a hard first six to eight games last season and found themselves playing catch up all year. It's so important you pick up some points in those first games."
Blues get good start
Meanwhile, Roberto Di Matteo starts his tenure as permanent Chelsea boss with a trip to Wigan. The Blues don't face any of last season's top four until an away game with Arsenal at the end of September - an ideal start to the season, according to Gale.
"That's a good start for Chelsea and they can get a few points in the bag before those big games come up," he said.
"Di Matteo will be under pressure straight away. Obviously he won the FA Cup and Champions League with them last season but you've got to get off to a good start and owner Roman Abramovich - and Di Matteo - will want to see the new signings settle in quickly."
The Blues' London rivals Arsenal endured their worst start for 58 years last season but face a tough opening run of fixtures which includes clashes with Liverpool, Man City and Chelsea in their first six games.
"These are really tough fixtures," said Gale. "They've got to start quickly to calm everything down at the club - such as the speculation about Robin van Persie and talk about them not winning trophies - and get going. Even their first two games against Sunderland and away to Stoke aren't easy. Stoke away has hardly been a happy hunting ground for Arsenal in recent years."
Tottenham, on the other hand, have a relatively easier start, but without a manager in place planning pre-season training and signings, Gale fears Spurs may be underprepared when the season kicks off.
"Spurs have got to get a manager sorted out and quick," said Gale. "If you'd got your manager in place who knows what's happening in pre-season and what players he wants to get in you can look at those fixtures and say that doesn't look like a bad six opening games.
"But without a manager you're thinking 'oh no'. Spurs had a really tricky start last season and were playing catch up before they went on a brilliant run. Without a manager that's a tough six games. You don't want hiccups early on."
Off to a flyer
A good start to the season is crucial, according to Gale.
"I can't stress how important it is for sides to get a good start," he said. "We've got six new managers starting the season, three promoted sides and three sides that might be accused of second season syndrome if things don't go too well.
"And then there are the big sides like Man City and Man United who need to get off to a good start because I believe it could take a record amount of points to win the league next season. It was a big total last season but I think it could be more next season because those two sides are pulling away. The start of the season is vital.
"We can look at the final day fixtures, rub the crystal ball and say Man United have to win at West Brom to win the league, Wigan need to beat Aston Villa at home to stay up and Fulham can squeak into the Europa League by beating Swansea but there's a long way to go until then!
"I can't wait to see how it pans out and I'm sure every football fan up and down the country can't wait either."