The new Premier League season kicks off on Friday with Champions League winners Liverpool hosting promoted Norwich.
AFP Sport looks at five key matches in the opening weeks of the eagerly anticipated English top-flight campaign:
West Ham v Manchester City, August 10
Pep Guardiola’s side were pushed right to the finish line by Liverpool last term, eventually winning their second successive title by just one point on the final day.
The champions are likely to need more of the same to keep Liverpool at bay again, making it essential they get off to a fast start — beginning at West Ham, where City have won on their past four visits in all competitions and scored an astonishing 17 goals in the process.
Manchester United v Chelsea, August 11
All eyes will be on Frank Lampard in the Chelsea manager’s first Premier League game after taking charge of the club where he became a legend during his playing days.
United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, another revered star now leading his old club from the dug-out, also needs a winning start after a woeful end to last season ruined his team’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League and raised doubts about the Norwegian’s suitability for the job.
Manchester City v Tottenham, August 17
Neutral fans will be hoping for a reprise of last season’s thrilling Champions League quarter-final second leg between the clubs, which saw Tottenham lose 4-3 at the Etihad Stadium but advance to the last four on away goals.
City avenged that defeat just days later with a 1-0 win that proved a key moment in their charge to the Premier League title.
Liverpool v Arsenal, August 24
Fuelled by the frustration of failing to end their wait for a first English title since 1990, Jurgen Klopp’s team are expected to be City’s closest challengers, making this encounter with Arsenal a good opportunity to lay down a marker.
Inspired by Roberto Firmino’s treble, Liverpool thrashed Arsenal 5-1 in December and, with the troubled Gunners still under construction in the second year of Unai Emery’s reign, it would be no surprise to see another Anfield goal-spree from the hosts.
Arsenal v Tottenham, September 1
The first north London derby of the season comes early and should provide evidence of whether Arsenal are capable of regaining the upper hand against their bitter rivals.
Arsenal took four points from their two Premier League meetings with Tottenham last term, but still finished one point adrift of them in fifth place — the third successive season they have ended below their neighbours.