Club football may have taken a backward step for Euro 2020 and the Copa America at present, but the Premier League is at the forefront of minds on Wednesday morning following the reveal of its fixtures for the 2021-22 campaign.
Some supporters’ optimism is at an all-time high as they dream of success for the forthcoming season, while others may be fearing the worst as they wait for their club to strengthen in the transfer window.
With a mountain of mouthwatering clashes coming up, Sportsmail has chosen 10 you can’t afford to miss.
August 14, 2021 – Brentford vs Arsenal
Let’s kick it off with a bit of history, shall we?
After several seasons of heartache in the Championship play-offs, Brentford are finally a Premier League club.
Like any newly-promoted side in the top-flight you want your first game at home and the Bees have been granted that with a fixture against Arsenal.
So Brentford’s first game is a London derby at home which will hopefully be a first-time sell-out, Covid-permitting, at their wonderful Brentford Community Stadium? It should be a cracker.
New boys Brentford begin their first-ever Premier League campaign at home to Arsenal
August 14, 2021 – Manchester United vs Leeds United
We’ve chosen three games on the opening weekend of the season and you’ll understand why with our second pick here: Manchester United versus Leeds United.
Quite simply these two clubs do not like each other and the rivalry – coupled with it being an opening-day fixture – will add to the enticing encounter we’re bound to get.
Neither side were able to permit home fans for either’s visit in 2020-21 so expect the Manchester United supporters to welcome back their Yorkshire foes with open arms… not.
The last time these two teams met at Old Trafford, the Red Devils cruised to an emphatic 6-2 victory on December 20, 2020.
How Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would love a repeat of that to get their title charge going.
Scott McTominay (right) scored twice as Manchester United thumped Leeds 6-2 in December
August 14, 2021 – Tottenham vs Manchester City
Our third and final opening-weekend fixture sees Premier League champions Manchester City travel to Tottenham.
City will be looking to lay down an early marker with an impressive performance in north London – especially after losing the Champions League final to Chelsea this season.
It’ll be interesting to see if they have any after-effects from that defeat but if they are a wounded animal – then it could get messy for Tottenham.
Spurs, who are without a manager at present, could line up against their current talisman Harry Kane if the City target does join Pep Guardiola’s juggernaut this summer.
It’d be a homecoming that would prove too soon for the Spurs faithful.
Harry Kane (left) could be lining up against Tottenham for Manchester City next season
August 21, 2021 – Arsenal vs Chelsea
It’s two successive London derbies for Arsenal to kick-start their campaign as they face another side from the west of the capital in Chelsea after Brentford.
This clash is steeped in history – although the Chelsea away supporters will duly remind their bitter rivals that they are the European champions.
Despite another poor term, Arsenal did in fact do the double over the Blues this season – winning 3-1 at home on Boxing Day, 2020 before triumphing 1-0 away on May 12. 2021.
Oh how Gunners boss Mikel Arteta would take another slender victory.
Bukayo Saka was on target as Arsenal won 3-1 at home to Chelsea on Boxing Day, 2020
September 25, 2021 – Arsenal vs Tottenham
If this article seems Arsenal-centric, it’s really not. It’s just because they’re involved in some huge matches at the start of the season.
After two-straight London derbies in August, the Gunners then have the big one for them a month later: Tottenham Hotspur at home.
The history of these two bitter rivals is well-versed and needs no introduction.
Both sides won their fixtures at home in 2020-21 with Spurs winning 2-0 on December 6, 2020 before Arsenal got revenge with a 2-1 win on March 14.
Just one point separated the two enemies this season, although neither had a campaign to brag about as Tottenham finished seventh (24 points behind City) and the Gunners eighth (25 points behind the champions).
Son Heung-min (right) was on the scoresheet as Spurs beat Arsenal 2-0 on December 6, 2020
October 2, 2021 – Liverpool vs Manchester City
Just a week later we have the disposed champions against the current title holders as Liverpool host Manchester City.
It may be just the first weekend of October, but no doubt the fixture will play a key role in the title race.
City finished 17 points of third-placed Liverpool this season but that gap is bound to be closer with the Reds welcoming back the likes of injured centre-back trio Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip.
Guardiola’s side ran riot at an empty Anfield on February 7 by winning 4-1. Don’t expect that result this time around with the cauldron-like atmosphere on Merseyside generated by the home fans rallying on Jurgen Klopp’s men.
Phil Foden (centre) scored this stunner as Manchester City won 4-1 at Liverpool on February 7
November 6, 2021 – Manchester United v Manchester City
A month later, City then travel to arch-nemesis Manchester United in the first Manchester derby of the season.
United, who came second, finished 12 points behind City in the table in 2020-21 and Solskjaer knows they’ll need to win this fixture to close the gap on their ‘noisy neighbours’.
The Norwegian has a knack of winning the ‘big’ matches domestically – less said about the Europa League final – but knows his side need consistency if they are to challenge City, Chelsea and Liverpool for the title.
This fixture ended goalless on December 12 and was rather dull. At least with fans in attendance there is no chance of it sending to people to sleep this time around, surely?
The first Manchester derby of the 2021-22 season takes place at Old Trafford on November 6
November 30, 2021 – Everton vs Liverpool
November ends with a barnstorming fixture as Everton host Liverpool in the Merseyside derby. These two teams are separated by less than a mile but their recent history couldn’t be more different with the latter by far the more successful side.
This clash will mark over 11 years since Everton last a Merseyside derby at home (a 2-0 victory courtesy of goals from Tim Cahill and Arteta) but they finally did end their long wait for a victory against the Reds on February 20 with a 2-0 win at Anfield.
This corresponding game this in 2020-21 curtailed Van Dijk’s season following a challenge by Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford. It’ll be interesting to watch that exchange at a raucous Goodison Park.
Jordan Pickford’s (centre) challenge on Virgil van Dijk ended the Liverpool star’s 2020-21 term
March 19, 2022 – Liverpool vs Manchester United
We skip forward a couple of months now to mid-March, 2021 and it’s back at Anfield as Liverpool ‘welcome’ (if you can call it that?) Manchester United.
This fixture in 2020-21 was a really disappointing affair as both teams created little in a 0-0 draw on January 17, 2021.
They did meet a week later in the FA Cup – a fixture United won 3-2 thanks to a brilliant Bruno Fernandes free-kick at OLd Trafford.
Klopp’s side did exact revenge on May 13 by winning the last league encounter 4-2 at United – a fixture that was rearranged after the latter’s fans’ protests postponed the initial clash.
Anfield will be rocking on March 19, 2022 when Liverpool host bitter rivals Manchester United
May 15, 2022 – Manchester United vs Chelsea
Picture the scene. We’re in mid-May and Manchester United and Chelsea are firmly in the title hunt.
The two rivals are neck-and-neck and aren’t giving each other an inch in their pursuit to end City’s reign as champions.
Well, this could be an actual thing with United and Chelsea facing off on the penultimate week of the season.
Their fixtures in 2020-21 were a snorefest – both goalless – but this has the potential to be a cracker if there are title (or even top-four) ambitions on the line.
The penultimate week of the 2021-22 season sees Manchester United entertain Chelsea in May