Where and when top Premier League clubs play their closest rivals during the course of the campaign can make or break their chances of the title.
This is why fans, managers and players alike all await the announcement of the fixture list for a new season with so much anticipation. It just so happens that the Premier League schedule for 2021-22 has been revealed.
Reigning champions Manchester City begin their defence of the title on the weekend of 14-15 August with a trip to Tottenham Hotspur, who will be under new management. They also entertain North London’s other club, Arsenal, before August is out. Pep Guardiola’s team are also on their travels in early September at Leicester City before facing Champions League final conquerors Chelsea at Stamford Bridge later in the month.
As starts go, Man City have it fairly tough with an away day at Liverpool following on at the beginning of October. The first Manchester derby of the season, at Old Trafford, is scheduled for early November but at least the busy festive fixture list looks relatively kind with a return home game with Leicester on Boxing Day the toughest task on paper.
New Year brings Man City away to Arsenal and then hosting Chelsea either side of the FA Cup third round weekend. The big games are spread out for Guardiola thereafter with Spurs at the Etihad in mid-February and Manchester United coming across town in early March. Liverpool too will be there before Easter with City enjoying a favourable run-in.
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Man Utd were best of the rest behind their neighbours last season, and they have an easy start apart from tackling old rivals Leeds United at home on the opening weekend. The first major tests for the Red Devils come in the autumn with a run of games which includes entertaining Everton at Old Trafford, then going to Leicester, hosting bitter enemies Liverpool and a trip down to Tottenham in October before the Manchester derby with City.
United are in London again at Chelsea, then face Arsenal at home towards the end of November. The fixture list treats them very well indeed throughout Christmas and New Year with easier matches for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer right through up until March. Next, they’ll face City again, then have Spurs at home and go to Anfield for the return game with Liverpool. Leicester at Old Trafford follows. The Red Devils’ run-in includes their other fixtures with Arsenal and Chelsea, so it’s not as easy as it is for their neighbours towards the end of the campaign.
For Liverpool, who, given their defensive injury crisis, did well to finish third last season, it isn’t long into the new campaign before a major test presents itself. Jurgen Klopp’s crew host Chelsea in just their third Premier League game of the season. October pairs the Reds with Man City at home and United away. Arsenal are at Anfield in November. The Merseyside derby at Goodison Park comes up at the end of that month.
Klopp has a gruelling festive period in store with trips to Spurs and Leicester either side of Boxing Day, then a third away game at Chelsea on New Year’s Day. Liverpool faces the Foxes again at the start of February, and end their travels at Arsenal. Their return game with United at Anfield comes before the international break in March, while they go to the Etihad and then host Everton either side of Easter. Tottenham at home is the only difficult game of the Reds’ run-in.
Finally, European champions Chelsea face a lot of tough fixtures back-to-back early on. Arsenal and Liverpool on the road come up before Spurs away and Man City at home, all in the first six games of the campaign. Mid-autumn is easier, but the Blues’ travel to FA Cup final conquerors Leicester and then host Man Utd in consecutive fixtures.
While Christmastime is kinder, Chelsea entertains Liverpool on New Year’s Day with trips to Man City and hosting Tottenham to come later in January. Home games with the Gunners and Foxes are pencilled in for February with just an away day at Old Trafford in the penultimate game of the campaign the only hard task left.