Six of the best
Sky Sports will broadcast 116 live Premier League games in 2013/14, the most ever in a single season. Jon Holmes picks out six of the most mouth-watering from the first round of fixtures.
By Jon Holmes - @jonboy79
Last Updated: 12/07/13 2:53pm
It's almost as eagerly anticipated as the release of the fixtures themselves... and now we know where the Sky Sports cameras will be for the first few months of the new Premier League season.
With so many clubs experiencing a change of management, and transfer activity building steadily throughout the summer months, it feels like the top-flight is being freshened up. However, a strong sense of history still permeates the Premier League landscape, as old rivalries are renewed and familiar faces make reappearances. With that in mind, here's a choice of six showdowns from the live Sky Sports schedule which already look unmissable...
Manchester United v Chelsea (Monday 26 August, 8pm)
The second round of fixtures in the new season comes to a close with a clash between the two most successful Premier League clubs of the last decade - and the Monday Night Football cameras will be there to witness it.
For the first time, David Moyes will walk out of the Old Trafford tunnel for a competitive match as Manchester United's manager. As Everton boss, he lost at home to Chelsea last season, but got the better of them in games at Goodison Park in the three previous campaigns.
Opposite him in the dug-out will be Jose Mourinho, for so long touted as Sir Alex Ferguson's successor but now back at Chelsea and hoping to add to the five major domestic trophies he won in his previous stint in charge. Mourinho has celebrated victories on United territory on three previous occasions - twice in 2005, and most recently with Real Madrid in March - but what must surely be his favourite memory of the stadium came after a 1-1 draw. Costinha's late equaliser in a Champions League round-of-16 second-leg tie sent the then Porto coach scampering down the touchline, punching the air in delight, as his side kept alive a run that would end in European glory in Gelsenkirchen.
Towards the end of last season, after United had already been crowned champions, Juan Mata's late goal gave Chelsea all three points at Old Trafford. Rafael was subsequently sent off for kicking David Luiz, who was accused of play-acting, so it might be worth keeping an eye on the two Brazilians. There'll be focus on Rio Ferdinand and John Terry too, while Chelsea's reported pursuit of Wayne Rooney may also be a factor as the transfer window draws to a close.
The clash comes just four days before Mourinho takes his Blues players to Prague for their UEFA Super Cup showdown against his old enemy, Pep Guardiola. That match against Bayern Munich will also be shown live on Sky Sports.
Liverpool v Manchester United (Sunday 1 September, 1.30pm)
While Chelsea recover from the Jose v Pep appointment in the Czech capital, United follow up by making the short journey west along the M62 to meet their traditional foes - Liverpool.
The equivalent encounter in September 2012 was even more emotionally charged than usual, being the first game played at Anfield since the publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel's report into the 1989 stadium disaster. Solemnity was observed and tributes paid, while the match that followed saw United take all three points off their 10-man rivals courtesy of Robin van Persie's penalty.
Jonjo Shelvey was the man red carded, and the midfielder picked an argument with Ferguson as he left the pitch - but neither will be involved this time around. Instead, Moyes is tasked with securing a win to silence the Kop, something he has never achieved before in his career. His last Anfield assignment, the stalemate on 5 May that ensured Everton would finish above Liverpool in the table, came two days after he was told by Ferguson that a change of job was coming his way.
With the futures of both Luis Suarez and Wayne Rooney somewhat uncertain, it remains to be seen whether they'll be playing but Reds fans will take encouragement from Daniel Sturridge's display against the champions at the start of 2013. Off the pitch, stakes will be raised in the Sky Sports studio; it's only three years since Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville were lining up against each other in this fixture.
Arsenal v Tottenham (Sunday 1 September, 4pm)
United could feasibly be celebrating their 75th win over Liverpool in history when the North London derby kicks off later the same day - and Arsenal will be looking to match that number of victories over Tottenham.
Both clubs will come into the Emirates encounter after European qualifying play-off second-leg ties, so the after-effects of those midweek exertions could be a factor. Only one point separated Arsene Wenger's men from Andre Villas-Boas' troops in the table last season, but that point marked the fork in the road between the Champions League and the Europa League.
William Gallas may have moved on, but an old-boy connection remains in the shape of Emmanuel Adebayor, who scored and was then sent off in the space of eight first-half minutes in this fixture last November. That ended in a 5-2 home win, while Spurs were 2-1 victors in the reverse meeting in March - both the exact same scorelines recorded in the previous campaign. Rarely do meetings between Arsenal and Spurs fail to produce excitement - there have been 45 goals in north London derbies in the Premier League in the last five seasons - and the midfield clash could be particularly intriguing. Spanish stars Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla will look to pull the strings for the hosts, while Sandro and his fellow Brazilian Paulinho look to release Gareth Bale.
Manchester City v Manchester United (Sunday 22 September, 4pm)
Owen coming off the bench to seal a 4-3 United triumph, Yaya Toure's FA Cup semi-final winner at Wembley, the remarkable 6-1 away victory and van Persie's 90th-minute deflected free-kick at the Etihad... since the neighbours got a whole lot noisier, the importance of Manchester derbies has noticeably increased.
For City, an 11-point gap was hard to swallow last season and ultimately cost Roberto Mancini his job. His successor Manuel Pellegrini will be expected to do much better, but sometimes even your best isn't good enough - as he discovered when guiding Real Madrid to a record 96 points in 2009/10, only to see Los Blancos finish as runners-up to Barcelona.
It was in Pellegrini's previous job that he once went head to head with new United boss Moyes, and it was a battle that ended in considerable controversy too. Pellegrini's Villarreal side were on course to squeeze past Moyes' Everton in Champions League qualifying in August 2005 when Duncan Ferguson headed in late on at El Madrigal. Inexplicably, referee Pierluigi Collina ruled out the goal and the Yellow Submarine went on to reach the lucrative group stages instead, and eventually the semi-finals. Collina's decision is one that Moyes says still baffles him to this day.
This Manchester derby, which follows games for both United and City on Matchday 1 in the Champions League, will be the 166th meeting. Remarkably, Ryan Giggs has appeared in 36 of those, going back to an old First Division game in May 1991 in which he hit the only goal.
Sunderland v Newcastle (Sunday 27 October, 4pm)
Paolo Di Canio was taking charge of only his second Premier League game when his Sunderland side's 3-0 hammering of hosts Newcastle sparked scenes of wild celebration from the Italian in April.
For this, his first Wear-Tyne derby at the Stadium of Light, more maverick antics can be expected. However, such is the topsy-turvy nature of North-East football that we can't be too sure of the personnel involved three-and-a-half months in advance. Back in October, an own goal from Demba Ba had seen the Cats earn a point against a Newcastle side reduced to 10 men. Ba would be long gone when the return fixture rolled around.
Recruitment has been gathering pace much more quickly at Sunderland in recent weeks, while at Newcastle, Joe Kinnear's comeback as director of football is yet to spark any signings of note.
Newcastle hold the edge in derbies, with the Magpies having won eight more than Sunderland. In particular, the Cats have struggled when the onus is on them to attack (they've won just one league derby at home in the last 30 years) but having Di Canio at the helm makes this match much more unpredictable.
Cardiff v Swansea (Sunday 3 November, 4pm)
The winners of the Football League's top honours last season meet in the top-flight for the first time, as the Championship champions take on the League Cup holders.
With both Welsh clubs finally paired together in the Premier League, passions are sure to be running high. As recently as 20 years ago, those passions were liable to spill over - the 'Battle of Ninian Park', which led to away fans being banned from the fixture, is still talked about - but behaviour has thankfully been much better more recently.
In the 2010/11 season, both clubs claimed 1-0 away wins in the second tier - Marvin Emnes and Craig Bellamy were the respective goalscorers. Bellamy turns 34 at the weekend, and he'll be hoping to partner new blood up front at the Cardiff City Stadium in the shape of the Bluebirds' record signing, Andreas Cornelius.
Up the M4, Cornelius' Danish countryman Michael Laudrup has been busy in the transfer market too, shelling out around £20million so far - striker Wilfried Bony is his latest capture.
How the new faces handle the fierce south Wales derby atmosphere remains to be seen - but it promises to be an intense affair.