Premier League fixtures – Eight battles for local pride

Local pride will be firmly at stake in the new season of the Premier League, with a host of new rivalries developing alongside the classic derbies of the past.

There is nothing better than being able to boast about beating the side from across the city or region, and here are eight local pride battles to keep a close eye on during the 2013/14 campaign.

Liverpool vs. Manchester United

Anfield: August 31, Old Trafford: March 15

Officially, this isn’t a derby, but it’s as good as. Most Liverpool fans can’t stand Manchester United, and the feeling is mutual in Manchester. The two most successful clubs in English football are often more desperate to win these games than their own local encounters with Everton and Manchester City.

In every game played between the two there is a talking point and there have been plenty down the years, from Jerzy Dudek’s howlers and Nemanja Vidic’s regular red cards to free-kick screamers from Denis Irwin and John Arne Riise. With Sir Alex Ferguson gone, Liverpool fans will be looking forward to August 31, when old Everton nemesis David Moyes returns to Merseyside with United.

Arsenal vs. Tottenham Hotspur

Emirates Stadium: August 31, White Hart Lane: March 15

Drama, goals and intrigue always surround the north London derby, and the shares have been spoiled in the last two seasons. Tottenham have won their home match 2-1, Arsenal theirs 5-2 in the past 24 months.

An early season meeting at the Emirates will keep everything hot in the closing stages of the unpredictable British summer, and it won’t be until mid-March before the second clash at White Hart Lane when the finishing positions start to sort themselves out. Tottenham’s recent collapses at the end of seasons mean they still haven’t finished above Arsenal in the league since 1995. Maybe it will be third time lucky for Andre Villas-Boas’ men.

Manchester City vs. Manchester United

Etihad Stadium: September 21, Old Trafford: March 1

There was a time in another life when the Manchester derby was all about passion on the day, but little more than that. Nowadays, this game is more than just local pride; it is crossfire for supremacy and these games set the standard for the league.

You always felt City never quite recovered psychologically from the stoppage time defeat to United at the Etihad in December last season, so United could strike an early blow when they meet in September. At least the encounter in early March is far enough away from the end of the season to ensure it is crucial, but not ultimately decisive. Psychological warfare and gaining the upper hand will be behind the 2013/14 fixtures. Manuel Pellegrini and David Moyes are about to experience something totally new.

Chelsea vs. Fulham

Stamford Bridge: September 21, Craven Cottage: March 1

It may not be the most glamorous of London derbies, but Fulham and Chelsea are near neighbours, and the Cottagers have been a real pain for Chelsea in the Premier League era. They might have only won once back in 2006 at Craven Cottage, but have a habit of stealing crucial points away from Chelsea, putting pressure on the Blues manager.

Martin Jol vs. Jose Mourinho will be an intriguing battle – they had some entertaining scraps in their previous days with Chelsea and Tottenham. This is one derby that is often overlooked and is ready to step out of its spot as the sleeping giant of football.

Sunderland v Newcastle United

Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa challenges Danny Graham

Stadium of Light: October 26, St. James’ Park: February 1

It was the Tyne and Wear derbies that firmly introduced the Premier League to Paolo di Canio the manager. Few will forget his celebrations on the touchline after Sunderland’s massive win at St. James’ Park in April, the game that ultimately kept them away from relegation.

They love their football on Tyneside and Wearside, but both sides had poor campaigns last time around. The Black Cats have the edge on recent form, but expect plenty of competition and juicy challenges on these two days.

Cardiff City vs. Swansea City

Cardiff City Stadium: November 2, Liberty Stadium: February 8

The Premier League welcomes its latest derby, as the two Welsh sides finally meet in the top flight. They don’t like each other, but the managers Michael Laudrup and Malky Mackay have commended each other for the great jobs they’ve done in the past.

The clash at the Cardiff City Stadium on November 2 will be a special Premier League occasion. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that these teams were battling for local pride in the third division.

Everton vs. Liverpool

Goodison Park: November 23, Anfield: January 28

If the rivalry is becoming more bitter in Manchester, the Merseyside version has often been referred to as the ‘friendly derby.’ The week building up to the match has the city often divided between red and blue. Everton’s continued support of Liverpool’s campaign for justice after the Hillsborough tragedy has ensured the respect has become even stronger in recent years, perhaps too much after the dull goalless draw they fought out in early May at Anfield.

Liverpool fans will be targeting top four this season, but after two seasons of playing second fiddle to Everton, priority number one must be to regain supremacy as top dog on Merseyside.

West Brom vs. Aston Villa

The Hawthorns: November 23, Villa Park: January 28

Football in the Midlands has fallen on tough times. The declines of Birmingham City, Coventry City and Wolves are sorry tales. The area, formerly a football superpower, simply can’t compete with the financial clout of more prestige regions. However, West Brom and Aston Villa fans will earmark the dates of their games.

Villa’s record is good against the Baggies, with West Brom only winning twice in the Premier League years. This is the battle of the season in this area of England, and the target will be to take maximum points and provide more Midlands misery for the opposition.

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