Ipswich Town fixtures 2016/17: When do the Blues play rivals Norwich City, big hitters Newcastle and Aston Villa and new boys Burton?

Ipswich Town v Norwich City FC.
Sky Bet Championship.
Paul Anderson scores for Town taking them to

Ipswich Town v Norwich City FC. Sky Bet Championship. Paul Anderson scores for Town taking them to 1-1 in the first half. - Credit: Archant

Ipswich Town are preparing for their 15th successive season in the Championship, with Mick McCarthy’s men aiming to build on last season’s seventh-placed finish.

Here we take a look at some key dates for Town in the months ahead:

AUGUST 6 BARNSLEY (H)

The Tykes are back in the Championship following a two-year absence, Paul Heckingbottom’s team enjoyed a late surge up the League One, finished sixth, and went on to beat Walsall and Millwall in the play-offs – despite finishing well behind both on points.

Blues boss Mick McCarthy is a Barnsley boy born and bred, came through the ranks at Oakwell, and is still very close with their legendary kitman Norman Rimmington – his biggest mentor in the game.

Town drew their opener at Brentford last season, conceding twice in stoppage-time to draw 2-2, while the previous year they beat Fulham 2-1 at Portman Road. The Blues’ last opening day defeat was at Reading (2-1) in 2013/14

AUGUST 20 NORWICH CITY (H)

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It was the fixture that everyone looked out for first and we don’t have to wait long for it. The East Anglian derby returns in the fourth league game of the campaign. Town have a score to settle against their bitter regional rivals following the play-off semi-final defeat of 2015. As if you need reminding, the Blues – historically the far more successful club – have now gone six games without a win over the Canaries (D1 L5). During their 15 years in the Championship, their Norfolk rivals have been down to League One and, more recently, yo-yoed between the top two divisions.

There are some series bragging rights up for grabs. The hope is that Alex Neil’s men will arrive in Suffolk still adjusting to life back in the second-tier and will feel the pressure as favourites in front of a hostile crowd.

SEPTEMBER 17 ASTON VILLA (H)

It’s definitely best to catch one of the so-called ‘big’ relegated clubs early on while they are still dealing with the culture shock of Championship football. Fulham couldn’t handle Town’s physicality on the opening day in 2014, while Burnley were beaten 2-0 at Portman Road in August last year.

Midlands giants Villa find themselves outside of the top-flight since 1988. They have appointed Champions League winner Roberto di Matteo as boss and he will be handed a significant transfer warchest, reportedly £30m, but, as we all know, money isn’t everything in this division. So many teams have found it hard to bounce back – just look at QPR last season.

Several star names will have departed Villa Park or be wanting to depart. They may just have started settling down a bit by the middle of September though. The same goes for the trip to Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle on Saturday, October 22.

DECEMBER 26 FULHAM (H)

You wait six years for a Portman Road game on Boxing Day and then get two in successive years! Town made the most of festive home advantage last year by beating QPR – albeit Luke Chambers’ last-gasp goal settling a dire match which brought precious little festive cheer.

Another home games follows, against Bristol City on Saturday, December 31.

JANUARY 7 FA Cup third round

Ipswich haven’t won an FA Cup game for six years now and Mick McCarthy’s penchant for changing his entire team in the world famous competition is wearing a little thin with some. Town have finished the last two calendar years on a high only to go very flat in the New Year. Cup defeats have not helped with maintaining momentum. Time will tell if the Blues boss takes knockout football more seriously this season.

FEBRUARY 25 NORWICH CITY (A)

The East Anglian derby return leg at Carrow Road. Things should be hotting up nicely by then. The Blues have lost four games in a row on Norfolk soil, conceding 11 and scoring just two. How nice it would be to quieten down those ‘On the ball, City’ chants.

APRIL 15 BURTON (A) Burton Albion have reached the second-tier for the first time in the club’s history. It’s a great story and many will be rooting for Nigel Clough’s side. They could well be in the middle of a relegation battle come the middle of April, so this may well be a tough trip.

Football fans love going to new grounds, so Town fans will surely travel to The Pirelli Stadium – capacity 6,912 – in their numbers. Two days later, on Easter Monday, Town host Newcastle United.