As with any Premier League fixture list, supporters and clubs will pick out opening day fixtures, their schedule around the festive period and any pivotal clashes with the top clubs and the former ‘big four’ has been replaced by a ‘big five.’
So, here are eight showdowns between last season’s top five: Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur.
Old Trafford: August 24, Stamford Bridge: January 18
If David Moyes was hoping for a gentle start in the Old Trafford hotseat, then he was to be seriously mistaken. A tough trip to Swansea on the opening day and an early season meeting with Liverpool sandwiches this encounter with Chelsea.
Mourinho had an excellent record in his first stint with the Blues against the defending champions, and it is a real baptism of fire for the new Red Devils boss. Win these games and he will have no problems settling in, but don’t be surprised to hear some murmurs around Old Trafford if Moyes loses these early season grudge matches.
Tottenham vs. Chelsea
White Hart Lane: September 28, Stamford Bridge: March 8
This fixture could become the biggest in the capital, especially if Tottenham continue to threaten the Champions League places. The match often doesn’t disappoint either. There were 10 goals were shared in the two fixtures last season, and it really will be a clash of the apprentice vs. the master.
Andre Villas-Boas was on Jose Mourinho’s coaching staff during the Special One’s first spell at Chelsea, and has adopted a lot of his methods into his sides. The September fixture is probably too early to judge where these clubs will fit into the final table, but March’s scheduled meeting at Stamford Bridge is likely to matter more.
Chelsea vs. Man City
Stamford Bridge: October 26, Etihad Stadium: February 1
Jose Mourinho and Manuel Pellegrini will know a lot about each other, having managed against one another in La Liga for the past three seasons. Both encourage attacking football, so let’s hope so for a fixture that has been lacking in appeal in recent seasons.
The game at Stamford Bridge back in November last season has to go down as one of the biggest disappointments of the campaign, with both sides woeful in attack from start to finish. However, it has to be said that one of these sides is most likely to challenge Manchester United, so gaining the upper hand in these two matches could be decisive.
Man Utd vs. Arsenal
Old Trafford: November 9, Emirates Stadium: February 11
For many seasons, Manchester United v Arsenal was the blockbuster fixture in the Premier League, largely because of the rivalry between Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger.
Recently, it has lacked the cutting edge, and that is down to the healthier respect between the two bosses and Arsenal’s silverware starvation. However, the history simply can’t be ignored, and many Gunners supporters will not forgive Robin van Persie for crossing the divide. The Emirates match in February will be a gruelling battle in a rare midweek set.
Arsenal vs. Chelsea
Emirates Stadium: December 21, Stamford Bridge: March 22
London’s current most prestigious clash is between Chelsea and Arsenal. Both sides will be keen to finish as top dog in the capital, and nowadays, that has to be seen as a minimum requirement.
The Christmas spirit will be on hold when they meet at the Emirates just four days before the presents, turkey and crackers. The Stamford Bridge meeting in March could be more decisive in context of a title battle. Of course, the return of a certain Portuguese manager means the Premier League will witness Mourinho vs Wenger again, and there was no love lost first time round.
Man City vs. Tottenham
Etihad Stadium: November 23, White Hart Lane: January 29
In recent seasons, it is Manchester City and Tottenham who have broken through from just above mid-table mediocrity into serious title contenders. The Citizens have won the league of course, and Tottenham aren’t far away, but that will probably depend on whether they can keep star asset Gareth Bale from the clutches of Real Madrid.
City will have a score to settle this season, as it was Tottenham who put the ultimate final nail in their title defence coffin back in April. Often an attractive fixture, these games shouldn’t disappoint.
Tottenham vs. Man Utd
White Hart Lane: November 30, Old Trafford: January 1
With only five weeks between the two games between Tottenham and Manchester United, there will be plenty of healthy winter rivalry between the two teams.
Andre Villas-Boas has a poor record against David Moyes, with just four points in four matches, and until last season, Tottenham’s Premier League record against the Red Devils was shocking. Be sure that levels of partying celebration of a New Year will be kept to a minimum when these sides lock horns at Old Trafford.
Man City vs. Arsenal
Etihad Stadium: December 14, Emirates Stadium: March 29
The fixture list could have been a little bit kinder for Arsenal fans, as they often face back-to-back clashes with top sides. Liverpool and Manchester United come in consecutive weekends in November, and in March, they face an even harder run against Tottenham, Chelsea and finally Manchester City.
Premier League history favours Arsenal here, although City’s comfortable victory at the Emirates in January showed the gulf between the two sides was becoming more apparent. The December clash at the Etihad comes in a month where football fans will really be spoilt for choice.
See what the expert tipsters are tipping on OLBG