The countdown to the 2020-21 season of the Premier League has begun, with the publication of the match list that will allow clubs and supporters to determine if they have a solid start, when they will face their biggest rivals and which teams stand in the way of success or failure in the run-up.
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Liverpool can now place their title defense, and promoted teams Leeds United, West Bromwich Albion and Fulham will be able to work out how and when they can score enough points to prevent an immediate return to the championship.
With sports still experiencing major disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the new season will begin with games being played behind closed doors and the delayed start, starting a month later than usual, will show a packed list from September to May 23rd.
Here’s when the biggest rivals will clash and which clubs have the easiest start as most difficult run-ins.
The games to watch
LIVERPOOL vs. LEEDS UNITED (Sept. 12)
The Premier League champions versus the Champions League champions in the opening weekend are as good as it gets, especially when you add in the prospect of Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa beating Jurgen Klopp against his first game in the top flight of England.
There is also some serious history between these two clubs, with a rivalry dating back to the 1960s, so Leeds are welcome back after a 16-year absence with a classic fixture to launch their season.
Leeds will get the sour test of their references, but Liverpool will also be wary of a promoted team that will be full of confidence after it’s finally made it again.
CHELSEA vs. LIVERPOOL (Sept. 19)
Chelsea’s transfer contracts so far this summer, which have seen the arrival of attacking players Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner, could make them serious contenders for the title, and their prospects will only improve if they catch Bayer Leverkusen’s Kai Havertz and strengthen their defenses.
Liverpool’s visit to Stamford Bridge so early in the season will give Frank Lampard’s team a chance to make a statement of intent against the reigning champions, a team that many expect to defend their title.
Liverpool had been in the race to sign Werner from RB Leipzig, but the cost of the deal saw them bend and let Chelsea pounce, so the spotlight will be firmly on the German striker in this game.
MAN STAD vs. ARSENAL (Oct. 17)
Arsenal’s FA Cup semi-final victory over Manchester City last season was a seminal moment under new manager Mikel Arteta, as it showed progress and suggested better times ahead for the Emirates.
The result also gave Arteta a big win over City boss Pep Guardiola, just a few months after he was sacked as Spain’s assistant to take the lead at Arsenal.
When the two teams meet in Manchester in October, it will be a game that tells us if Arsenal can compete for the title and whether City have put last season’s disappointments behind them. For both sides, this match will be a sign for their prospects for the season.
Steve Nicol almost understands why the bookies have made the Man City Premier League favorites for 2020-21.
SPURS vs. ARSENAL (Dec 5)
Tottenham Hotspur won their first Derby match in July, but this may be the first time fans have been allowed to watch the two former rivals.
This has always been one of the standout fixtures, despite the recent lack of success by both teams. Managers Jose Mourinho and Arteta will be determined to get their clubs back in the top four after both missed Champions League qualifiers last season.
The collision could also be crucial in the race for the Golden Boot as Harry Kane and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang stay at Spurs and Arsenal this summer.
MAN CITY vs MAN UNITED (Dec. 12)
The first Manchester derby of the season will take City out of revenge after losing in both league games against United last season.
The clubs will be desperate to position themselves as Liverpool’s biggest contenders for the title, so the outcome of this game could have a big impact on that.
The fixture will drop just a week before the second anniversary of Ole Gunnar Solskjær as United manager. The Noar has made good progress during that time, but he needs to get his team closer to City after finishing 15 points behind them last season.
LIVERPOOL vs. MAN CITY (Feb 6)
Liverpool and City have been the top two teams in the Premier League for almost three years, and this game could have an enormous impact on the outcome of the title.
With the two sides already facing the Etihad in November, this one could even be a decision in the race for the title as it is as close as the 2018-19 campaign, when just one point beats the two teams at the end of the season and City won the second meeting between the sides.
City have a terrible record at Anfield, having not won since May 2003, so Guardiola will take his team to Merseyside, knowing the chances against them will be stacked.
LEEDS vs. MAN UNITED (April 24)
With this game taking place just a month before the end of the season, it could be crucial to the ambitions of both clubs, but even if it proves to be nothing more than a mid-table clash with not much at stake, it could still be an enormous game for both sets of supporters.
The rivalry is one of the most intense in English football, and it has been in deep free time, the odd meeting in the Cup, since Leeds were relegated in 2004. It will be United’s first Premier League visit. to Elland Road since October 2003, and it will be a must-watch fixture.
There are a few more hostile and noisy stadiums than Elland Road, especially when Man United comes into town, so this will be a great opportunity if supporter numbers return to normal.
MAN UNITED vs. LIVERPOOL (May 1)
Traditionally, the biggest game in English football is between its two biggest and most successful clubs, but this one has an extra edge if one of the two teams is within touching distance of the title.
Liverpool’s 2019-20 success took them to 19 league titles, just one behind United’s record 20, so imagine the prospect of Klopp’s team sounding their 20th at Old Trafford.
On the flip side, United could have spread their hopes of rivals or even closer to their 21st in this game. Whatever the point, it will be an enormous opportunity.
Who has the easiest / most expensive start?
Liverpool will not be afraid of any team after finally ending their 30-year title drought last season, but they would probably hope for an easier start.
Klopp’s team will fight Leeds, Chelsea and Arsenal in their first three games, so they should be ready for action from day one, despite their summer break shortened by their involvement with the Community Shield (vs. FA Cup winner Arsenal on Aug 29 ).
Not one of the Big Six has an easy start, with everyone having at least one game against another major rival in their opening six, but Spurs have perhaps the most favorable start.
Mourinho’s side face Everton, Southampton and Newcastle in September before starting games against Manchester United, West Ham and Burnley in October, but even if that’s an easier start than most, it will be complicated by their involvement in Europe League qualifiers in the first three midweek. They will also have to submit a squad for the Carabao Cup third and fourth rounds at the same time as playing European fixtures.
Who has the easiest / most expensive entry?
Arsenal face just one of the Big Six, Chelsea (at Stamford Bridge), in the final month of the season, so if Arteta’s team are battling for one of the key places, they will be encouraged by their closing schedule.
Liverpool have had a similar run, with only the trip to Manchester United on May 1 likely to cause headaches for Klopp’s team.
But in terms of a tough run to the finish, United have it less than the rest, with Solskjær’s team traveling to Leeds and Wolves after their last six games, as well as home games against Liverpool and Leicester.
When will fans be back in stadiums?
The Premier League has said it is “committed to getting fans back in full stages as soon as possible, with safety always the priority”, and the earliest possible date, even a small percentage of fans can return through government regulations is October 1st.
Clubs are working on the prospect that stadiums can operate up to 30% of capacity in the initial phase, but that will depend on the outcome of test events and the COVID-19 infection rate in the country in the coming weeks and months.
However, sources have told ESPN that there is an acceptance within the Premier League that normality may not return until the 2021-22 season.