Football fever is spreading throughout the capital ahead of the start of another thrilling Premier league campaign. We take a look at ten key fixtures which could shape the season.
Hammer it home: West Ham v Southampton
Slaven Bilic is the cool manager everyone wants at their club. Until the results go wrong, that is. A tough opening year at the Olympic Stadium knocked some of the sheen off the charismatic Croatian’s reputation and he will be desperate to hit the ground running with a winnable first-day fixture against Southampton. The Saints will be filled with renewed optimism as Mauricio Pellegrino makes his debut in the dugout but this feels like a bigger game for a West Ham side which will be under pressure to deliver.
Summer showdown: Tottenham Hotspur v Chelsea
Last season’s top two will be out to strike an early psychological blow in this year’s Premier League title race in this colossal capital clash. While stylish Spurs have not made major additions to their talented squad the fact they have hung on to rising managerial star Mauricio Pochettino means they will again be a threat for top honours. Champions Chelsea have bolstered an already impressive squad with £60million Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata and will be looking to send out a message to their rivals at Wembley.
Tale of two strikers: Manchester United v Everton
It’s hard to judge who did the best business this summer when you compare a hungry £75million striker like Romelu Lukaku with veteran free signing Wayne Rooney. But this Merseyside-Manchester collision will be the first time the Belgian forward and England’s record scorer have shared a pitch since swapping clubs. Expect Rooney to receive a warm welcome from the Old Trafford faithful. The away fans packed into the Theatre of Dreams will be hoping their former hero Lukaku has a nightmare, however, against Ronald Koeman’s side.
Championship pedigree: Brighton and Hove Albion v Newcastle United
It might be a new season in a whole new division, but sporting wounds surely won’t heal so easily for Chris Hughton’s Brighton. Albion were cantering to the Championship title before a last-gasp collapse allowed Newcastle United to claim the trophy and bragging rights for the campaign ahead. While Brighton will be happy to secure Premier League safety in their first-ever top-flight season, Rafael Benitez’s side will surely have their sights set higher.
A friendly rivalry: Liverpool v Huddersfield Town
Huddersfield boss David Wagner stood side by side with maverick Liverpool counterpart Jurgen Klopp as best man for his wedding. But friendship when will be put aside for 90 minutes (plus stoppage time) when the two meet in October. The duo will be divided by a dugout and a desire for three precious points at Anfield. Wagner’s appointment at the unheralded Yorkshire side has proved a perfect marriage but if Klopp is to make good on his vow to bring silverware to Liverpool he must make his best man second best for one day.
Capital combat: Arsenal v Tottenham
It was a season of unwelcome firsts for Arsene Wenger last season. Not only did he fail to fire the Gunners into the Champions League for the first time ever, but he also saw Spurs become North London top dogs by finishing above his side for the first time in 22 years. The first derby of the campaign will be a huge opportunity for the Frenchman to prove that the power shift isn’t permanent. But a win for Tottenham could heap even more pressure on the veteran boss, who many fans feel has already overstayed his welcome at the club.
Rooney’s derby dream: Liverpool v Everton
Wayne Rooney has unfinished business – and it's fifteen years in the making. Even after a stellar career, which has seen him become England and Manchester United’s record goalscorer, lift the Champions League and a hatful of Premier League crowns, he is still driven on by the one that got away. Now back at his boyhood idols Everton, Rooney already has a date circled in red in his diary. The gifted forward never notched a single derby day goal against the Blues’ fierce rivals Liverpool and is determined to atone.
Title tilt: Manchester City v Chelsea
These two teams have a lot in common, though they might not like to admit it. Both were rescued from the doldrums by super-rich owners, allowing them to escape from the shadows of illustrious city rivals, neither are averse to sacking managers in the quest for success and each has been the most successful sides in the league in recent years. Both also have two of the most highly-regarded managers in Europe, in charge of star-studded squads. This massive March match-up comes hot on the heels of a trip to Old Trafford for Chelsea and could prove make-or-break for their title defence.
A city divided: Manchester City v Manchester United
The dramatic moment that Sergio Aguero rifled home a stoppage time winner to secure Manchester City’s first Premier League title in 2012 will remain in the minds of Sky Blues fans forever. But it was a towering header from captain Vincent Kompany just weeks earlier that clinched a win over neighbours and title rivals Manchester United that laid the foundations for that moment of glory. Five years on, the two powerhouse sides could again be locking horns for top spot, with this April fixture already looking like it could be crucial.
Last-day drama: Burnley v Bournemouth
These two underdog outfits just love to confound the critics. Armed only with small budgets, they performed admirably to comfortably remain in the top-flight last season. But money talks louder than ever in the cash-rich Premier League and already this last-day encounter has the looks of a relegation showdown. Bournemouth, having recruited well in the summer, may have something to say about that but a Burnley team shorn of top prospect Michael Keane seem destined to struggle.