Leicester City shocked the world with their march to the 2015/16 Premier League title. That underdog story will carry over to this year’s campaign giving all 20 clubs the belief that with the right run of form they too can take the title. Soccer365 takes a look at the Top 10 Must Watch Premier League matches of the 2016/17 season. Matches that could determine who wins the 2016/17 Premier League title.
Honorable Mention – Matches to Beat the Long Odds
Leicester City made the book makers pay after beating the 5,000/1 odds of hoisting the silverware last year. The run has made the bookies more conservative in their outlook with promoted side Hull City facing the longest odds at 2,000/1. What are the other clubs facing to start the season? West Bromwich Albion 1,750/1, Watford, Bournemouth, Middlesbrough, Burnley, and Sunderland, all at 1,500/1, Swansea City 1,250/1, Crystal Palace at 1,000/1, Stoke City at 750/1, Everton at 200/1, Southampton 150/1, West Ham United 100/1, Leicester City at 28/1, Liverpool 9/1, Tottenham 8/1, Chelsea 13/2, Arsenal 6/1, Manchester United 5/1, and Manchester City the favorites at 9/4.
#10 – Promoted Teams’ Opening Day Matches (August 13)
Welcome to the Premier League. Burnley, Middlesbrough, and Hull city all ended their 2015/16 Championship campaigns on a high with promotion to the Premier League. But the only challenge harder than making it to the Premier League is staying in the Premier League. The opening weekend matches could tell which teams have what it takes to survive.
The opening day fixtures for promoted teams are:
Burnley v Swansea City
Hull City v Leicester City
Middlesbrough v Stoke City
The 3 clubs can take some optimism into the opening matches as they all play in front of their home fans and can look back to the 2015/16 season where 2 of the 3 clubs – Bournemouth and Watford – survived the drop.
But survival for promoted sides is still close to a 50/50 proposition. Since the start of the Premier League, 68 teams have been promoted from the Championship and 30 (44%) have been immediately sent back down to the second tier of English soccer.
* – There has only been 1 season since the start of the Premier League that all 3 promoted sides were immediately relegated. The 1997/98 campaign saw Barnsley, Bolton Wanderers and Crystal Palace promoted but none could beat the odds.
#9 – West Ham vs Bournemouth (August 20)
After spending the last 112 years at the Boleyn Ground (also known as Upton Park), West Ham will begin a new era when they take the field at Olympic Stadium for their first match. The Hammers are eager and optimistic heading to the new ground and a new season after taking a club record of 62 points last season and earning a spot in the UEFA Europa League.
#8 – Sunderland vs Middlesbrough (August 20)
Sunderland has been left searching for a regional rival after Newcastle was relegated last season temporarily putting on hold the top flight playing of the Tyne-Wear Derby. The Black Cats can turn their attention to Middlesborough, who are returning to the Premier League after a 7-year absence, their closest regional ‘rival’ in the battle to be the top club in the northeast of England.
#7 – Tottenham vs Manchester United (May 13)
Tottenham’s request of the scheduling committee to play the last 2 games of the season away from White Hart Lane so demolition could begin on the 118-year old ground was denied with Spurs being handed a tough test against Manchester United on the penultimate matchday. Mauricio Pochettino and Co. may consider themselves lucky come the end of the season, however, as both clubs no doubt consider themselves title contenders making this a huge match and a great send-off for White Hart Lane. The fixture begs the questions whether the scheduling committee has a sense of humor as it was the Red Devils who were West Ham’s opponent to close out the Boleyn Ground, a 3-2 win for the home side, last season.
#6 – Southampton vs Everton (November 26)
Southampton has felt hard pressed with the exodus of top players (Morgan Schneiderlin, Nathaniel Clyne, Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw, Calum Chambers, Dejan Lovren, Rickie Lambert) and their previous manager, Pochettino, moving on to bigger clubs over the last couple of seasons. The Saints probably were not expecting last season’s manager, Ronald Koeman, to pick up and move to Everton, a team that finished 5 places behind Southampton. The club will no doubt want to make a statement that the Dutchman made a mistake with his move.
#5 – Arsenal vs Tottenham (November 5)
Tottenham were the last team in the title chase with Leicester last season only to falter badly down the stretch. The Spurs loss on the final day of the season allowed Arsenal to pip them to 2nd place on the table and for Gunners fans to celebrate St. Totteringham Day, the day that Spurs can no longer over take Arsenal on the final table, for a 21st consecutive season. Tottenham will want to re-establish their young team as the best in north London and if results go their way finish on top the league as well.
#4 – Manchester City v Chelsea (December 3)
Manchester City and Chelsea both expected to be in the title conversation last year and neither lived up to those expectations. The changes were quick with Manchester City hiring Pep Guardiola and Chelsea inking Antonio Conte. The new managers who had success with their previous clubs, Bayern Munich and Juventus, respectively, know that success is expected and expected immediately so anything less than winning silverware could be considered a failure.
Related: 2016/17 Premier League Fixtures
#3 – Chelsea vs Tottenham (November 26)
Chelsea ended Tottenham’s 2015/16 title hopes when Eden Hazard curled in a 2nd half equalizer (the second consecutive time Hazard scored the goal that sealed the title) in a hard fought match that saw eye gouging, dirty tackles, a bench clearing brawl, and yellow cards at Stamford Bridge. Spurs will need to show they have the class, talent, and will to stand-up to the Blues if they hope to take the title.
#2 – Mourinho vs the World
Jose Mourinho is either the most loved or most hated man on the field for most games and ‘the Special One’s’ move to Manchester United will add intrigue to most Red Devils matches this season. The big ones to look out for are: 1) the Manchester Derby on September 10 will see Jose face off against adversary Guardiola. They are now not only going to be sitting in opposing dugouts when facing each other but in the same city for the rest of the year. Let the competition begin. 2) The Red Devils face Liverpool at Anfield on October 15 renewing one of the Premier League/England’s top division rivalry. The clubs have combined to win 38 top division titles (20 for Manchester United and 18 for Liverpool). 3) Manchester United has to face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge the week after facing the Reds. Mourinho may find that the Blues fans don’t find him so ‘special’ anymore after being largely responsible for their 10th place finish last season. 4) And finally on November 19, Mourinho will host his old friend Arsene Wenger at Old Trafford. Mourinho has the habit of getting under the skin of the Frenchman and usually comes out on top of the scoreline as well but this year Wenger may have the better squad to take to the gunfight.
#1 – Leicester City vs Arsenal (August 20)
The 2016/17 wastes no time getting to the big matches with last year’s champions, Leicester City, hosting last season’s runners-up, Arsenal, on the second weekend of the season. Pundits were predicting a Foxes fall apart the entire second half of the season that never came and the same pundits have probably written off their chances of repeating before the first ball is kicked. Arsenal have not won a title in over a decade but with a stronger squad, Arsenal is a favorite to once again take home the title. To add to the intrigue of this match, the rumor mill has connected Leicester’s Jamie Vardy, the team’s leading scorer last season, with a move to Arsenal.
What do you think are the must see matches of the 2016/17 Premier League campaign?