Dates with Destiny: The Key Games for the New EPL Season
August 12, 2016
If last year taught us anything, it is that nothing should be taken for granted in this years’ EPL season. Leicester City’s unprecedented, 5000/1 title success sent shock-waves through the national game, prompting the Premier League’s elite clubs to to embark on a lavish recruitment drive that is already close to topping the existing summer spending record of £870 million.
Despite this outlay and the arrival (or in some cases, return) of star coaches such as Pep Guardiola, Antonio Conte and Jose Mourinho, it would be foolish to rule another season of significant upheaval and uncertainty. Two things that can be guaranteed, however, are the level of excitement that surrounds this years’ Premier League and the intensity of competition that we can expect to see.
While it may be impossible and foolhardy to try and predict results this season, however, at Bethut we have picked out five of the key games that will help to shape outcomes at the top and bottom of the table.
Arsenal v Liverpool, August 14th
It is unusual to have such a big game so early, but the Gunners will do battle with Jurgen Klopp’s Reds on the first Sunday of the season. Both teams have endured difficult summers, with Liverpool failing in their bid to sign top class players and Arsenal struggling to sign anyone at all.
There is a sense of optimism around Anfield, however, so this game is an ideal opportunity for the Reds to make a strong statement of intent for the season ahead. For Arsenal, a positive start will be crucial if Wenger is to prove his doubters wrong and steer the Gunners to their usual Champions League place, so this is certainly a game to watch with interest.
Leicester City v Arsenal, August 20th
The following week, the Gunners travel to Champions Leicester who themselves have a point to prove. It has been a mixed summer for the Foxes, who lost their star midfielder in N’Golo Kante but managed to retain their services of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez. They also made some useful squad additions, although the real challenge for the Foxes will be how they cope with raised expectations and the way in which their rivals adapt to limit their effectiveness on the break.
This will be a huge game for Leicester, who must perform well from the start if they are to maintain the momentum that they earned last season and strive to defend their title.
Manchester United v Manchester City, September 10th
When it comes to identifying this season’s Premier League title race favourites, the two Manchester clubs are marginally ahead of Chelsea and Arsenal in the eyes of the bookmakers. This has much to do with the two managers at the helm of each club, who have amassed in excess of 40 major honours between them in their relatively brief careers to date.
Large scale summer spending has also stoked the fires, so the clash between the two at Old Trafford on September 10th is sure to be a blockbuster. From Pogba and Ibrahimovic to Aguero and Kevin de Bruyne, there will be some incredible talent on show and both sides will be keen to throw down an early marker in the quest for EPL supremacy.
Chelsea v Manchester City, April 5th
Interestingly, it is thought that the local rivalry between the Manchester clubs and the renewal of hostilities between Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho could distract the favourites and create an opportunity for Antonio Conte’s Chelsea. The Italian will certainly make the Blues a physical and organised force, and one that teams will struggle to beat throughout the season.
If this is the case, the April clash between these two modern-day giants could have a seminal impact on the title race. In a battle between the immovable object and the irresistible force, the winner may well emerge with their eyes firmly fixed on the Premier League crown.
Burnley v West Bromwich Albion, May 6th
It is no surprise to see the three newly-promoted clubs among the favourites to return to the Championship this season, with only Middlesbrough thought to have a viable chance of establishing themselves in the top flight. Watford and Tony Pulis’ dour West Bromwich Albion side are also considered to be in the reckoning, with both clubs having struggled manfully for goals and form at the end of last season.
In this respect, Burnley’s clash with the Baggies on May 6th could be a relegation six-pointer where Premier League survival is at stake. So long as these sides remain competitive throughout the season, the meeting at Turf Moor could see one team’s hopes of staying in the Premier League crushed into dust.