The Premier League fixtures for the 2016/17 season have been announced. The new season is set to be one of the most awaited ones in recent years thanks to the number of high profile names in the hot-seats at the big Premier League clubs. Jose Mourinho taking over at Manchester United just few months after being sacked by Chelsea, and just few months after Pep Guardiola became Manchester City manager has spiced things up.
It will be interesting to see if the Leicester City story has a sequel, and will Arsene Wenger finally lead Arsenal to glory.
With so many sub-plots, there were bound to be some mouth-watering fixtures on the cards. Here are five of the most eye-catching matches for the opening half of the 2016/17 English Premier League season after the fixtures were unveiled on Wednesday:
Leicester v Arsenal, August 20: Vardy plans could prove decisive factor
Leicester will host Arsenal hoping they still have leading scorer Jamie Vardy in their ranks and not facing them following the Gunners' offer before Euro 2016. One Arsenal fan tweeted rather desperately after Leicester clinched the title that the Gunners deserved it instead because they beat them twice last season (5-2 away and 2-1 at home). That is of little consolation to Arsene Wenger but should his side beat Leicester, having also come off best against Liverpool on the opening weekend, it will give them considerable early season momentum. However, there have been many false dawns such as that in his long reign.
Manchester United v Manchester City, September 10: "Special One" looks for early Pep-up
The bitter "El Clasicos" of yesteryear transfer to the Manchester derby. Ex-Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho's United host City coached by his bitter sparring rival at Barcelona, Pep Guardiola. "The grudge match arrives in Manchester" was the headline in Madrid-based newspaper Marca when Mourinho's appointment at United was confirmed. They will have already met in a "friendly" tournament in China but this match will allow the winner early bragging rights. Mourinho relishes the latter more than Guardiola, who generally prefers to keep his own counsel. Mourinho though has a lot to prove as Guardiola not only got the Barcelona job ahead of him but also came off best during the often unhappy spell at Real for "The Special One". Mourinho claims he will be different in the Second Act of their rivalry. "In the English league, if I focus on him and on Manchester City and if he focuses on United, someone else will be the champion," the Portuguese said in May. This early date will sorely test that statement.
Manchester United v Leicester, September 24: Mourinho welcomes old foe Ranieri
No sooner has Mourinho hosted one of his many betes noires than he welcomes another whose character he derided eight years ago, Leicester's Claudio Ranieri. The latter was classified as a failure in 2008 by Mourinho, who castigated him for not being able to change his style and having won only minor trophies. Thus it must have been rather galling for Mourinho to watch from the sidelines as Ranieri guided the Foxes to the unlikeliest of titles last term. "I am not like Mourinho, I don’t have to win things to be sure of myself," said Ranieri back in 2008 in response to the remarks. A win for Leicester in a match between two former Chelsea bosses would be an unwelcome early reverse for Mourinho.
Chelsea v Manchester United, October 22: Mourinho returns to Stamford Bridge
Mourinho's mood on his return to the club that unceremoniously ditched him last season will depend largely on how early season results have gone. The fans will welcome him back warmly as he retains heroic status there despite his many spats. The Chelsea board will hope Antonio Conte has settled in well after leading Italy at the Euro championships and begun to win over the crowd. Mourinho's mind games will have little effect on the former Juventus and Italy no-nonsense midfielder, who has proven equally tough in the dugout. Given the playing style of their previous clubs this game is likely to be more a war of attrition than a crowd pleaser.
Liverpool v Manchester City, December 31: Happy New Year? Klopp's reunion with Guardiola
Liverpool hosting Manchester City is a mouthwatering clash to take the Premier League into the New Year. Guardiola and Klopp -- both charismatic men with glittering CVs -- ended up with honours even in their eight meetings between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund in all competitions in the Bundesliga. Guardiola described Klopp's appointment as Liverpool boss last year as "a good fit". He will hope it is not such a good fit that he and City suffer bloody noses.