Marco Silva can reflect on his opening week in English football with a cautious sense of satisfaction. After beating Swansea City 2-0 in the FA Cup third round, an injury-ravaged squad went down to a battling defeat away to Manchester United in the first leg of the EFL Cup semifinal.
So far, so good for Hull City's new head coach but the fixture carrying greatest significance is still to come. If Silva is to nurture the tentative optimism that accompanied his appointment last week, getting a result against Bournemouth at the KCOM Stadium on Saturday feels a must.
One look at the fixture list underlines the reasons why. After the visit of Bournemouth comes Chelsea and Manchester United away, Liverpool at home and then a trip to Arsenal. Not until Burnley arrive at the KCOM Stadium on Feb. 25th will City finally enjoy a respite.
That daunting run of fixtures will surely see the Tigers lose ground in the relegation fight but victory over Bournemouth on Saturday can at least ensure they are not cut adrift entirely.
Three points has to be the aim for Silva and his side. Nothing less. Although last weekend's FA Cup success against Swansea brought encouragement and a place in the fourth round, Hull still have not won in the Premier League since Nov. 6th against Southampton.
Nine games spanning two months have yielded just three points, a run that cost Mike Phelan his job after the 3-1 loss to West Brom on Jan. 2nd and left the Tigers rooted to the foot of the table.
Supporters want to believe in Silva and his plans for "a miracle" in the second-half of the season (his words, not mine) but without seeing a Premier League victory soon all that talk will be fanciful. The Tigers' current winless sequence has to stop soon just for them to stand a chance at survival.
City need a victory and the visit of Bournemouth is as inviting an opportunity as they will see for over a month. Silva will not need to be told that after casting his eyes down a fixture list that amounts to an almighty baptism of fire in the Premier League.
If only Silva held a stronger hand to play this weekend. A squad decimated by injuries, both long-term and short-term, is being pushed to its limits during a schedule barely offering a chance to catch a breath.
Ten first-team players were unavailable for the EFL Cup game at Manchester United on Tuesday, ensuring just six substitutes were named. Among the replacements were three rookies who are yet to start a Premier League game in their careers.
Influential players, such as Robert Snodgrass, have been asked to start five games in 15 days. Fatigue will soon become as big a worry as will the injury list that is suffocating Silva's options.
At least the first January reinforcements have arrived on the horizon. Everton striker Oumar Niasse has agreed a loan deal until the end of the season to revive a career that has spectacularly stalled in the last 12 months, while Brazilian playmaker Evandro should also offer a fresh attacking dynamic from the midfield.
Hull need bodies first and foremost but both new arrivals appear to be a gamble. Niasse has spent the season playing for Everton's under-23s after he was not even given a squad number by Ronald Koeman and is yet to score a Premier League goal since joining the Toffees from Lokomotiv Moscow last winter for £13.5m.
Evandro is another unknown quantity in English football following a career spent predominantly in Brazil and Portugal. The 30-year-old will, however, come highly recommended by Silva, who oversaw Evandro's best moments at Portuguese club Estoril.
City need to do more in the transfer window, namely add a right-back, but at least this is a start. The support that Phelan was made to wait for at the back end of the summer has come after just a week in the job for Silva.
Time is certainly not on the new head coach's side and all he can do is hope that his ideas are quickly implemented. Encouragingly there has been a certain defensive steel to City during his first two games in charge, with discipline and structure the obvious theme.
Every ounce of that will be needed against Bournemouth, an opponent that thumped six goals past David Marshall back in October. Defender Curtis Davies called that defeat at the Vitality Stadium "embarrassing" with good reason.
Nothing can be taken for granted against Eddie Howe's side, who have enjoyed a light schedule in comparison to their hosts this month, but this can be a fixture that kick-starts the fightback for the Tigers.