The Barclays Premier League released the 2012-13 schedule Monday, satisfying fans' appetites for early high-profile matches in the opening weeks. Front runners Manchester City and Manchester United expect to fight for the crown once again, while fellow giants Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham will battle for coveted Champions League spots next season. At first glance, defending champion Manchester City has a relatively easy start to the season in comparison to city rival Manchester United, which must deal with complicated back-to-back fixtures against London foes Arsenal and Chelsea in November and April, respectively. Despite the Champions League group schedule announcement, which can complicate matters for the Citizens on August 30, Roberto Mancini's side still is an 11/8 favorite to run away with England's richest prize for a second straight year. As we approach the start of the new campaign, FOX Soccer presents the top 10 fixtures that surely will keep supporters glued to TV sets and help shape the title race in 2012-13. — Jamie Trecker
Liverpool vs. Manchester City (Aug. 25)
The first big clash of the season takes place on Aug. 25 as City travel to Anfield. New Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers will have his work cut out for him as he tries to blunt City’s attacking power, which includes Italy international Mario Balotelli. But Liverpool has a deadly striker of its own in Luis Suarez. This promises to be an end-to-end battle between two of England’s best teams.
Liverpool vs. Manchester United (Sept. 22)
Once the biggest grudge matches in English football, this game has been diminished over the past decade but still means a lot at Anfield. The game Sept. 22 will be a key test of Brendan Rodgers’ ability and will see two England teammates running headlong at one another — lanky striker Andy Carroll and the invaluable Wayne Rooney. This game is always a battle, and it cannot be missed.
Manchester City vs. Arsenal (Sept. 22)
The champs host Arsenal in an intriguing fixture on Sept. 22. Sergio Aguero is likely to lead the line for City. With Robin van Persie's departure, Arsenal strikers Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski will be key if Arsene Wenger decides to deliver silverware to Emirates faithful this season.
Arsenal vs. Chelsea (Sept. 29)
One of the big London derbies. New signings Lukas Podolski (Arsenal) and Eden Hazard (Chelsea) are likely to cross paths at the Emirates on Sept. 29 in what should be a critical early-season test for both sides. Hazard was prised away from Lille and is one of the most explosive midfielders in the game. Should be gripping.
Everton vs. Liverpool (Oct. 27)
The Merseyside derby, Oct. 27. The big questions here are: Will David Moyes still be managing Everton? Can the Blues continue their trend of improving despite penny-pinching budgets? And can the American-owned Reds send a message that they are the only team in town? American Tim Howard backstops the Toffees; England captain Steven Gerrard pulls the strings for Liverpool.
Chelsea vs. Manchester United (Oct. 27)
The first meeting between two of this season’s title contenders must wait until Oct. 27. This is expected to be a critical game for both teams as they look to send an early-season signal that they are the real deal. Javier Hernandez suffered a slump last season; how he recovers may prove vital to the Red Devils’ chances this year.
Arsenal vs. Tottenham (Nov. 17)
Nov. 17 sees the other big London derby and the one with the most edge — even if it is no longer a battle that defines a season. Spurs seek revenge on Arsenal for pipping them to the final Champions League place, but they'll need to hold on to the services of men such as Luka Modric to get the job done. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has impressed for both club and country and this season is his time to become a fully-fledged superstar.
Tottenham vs. West Ham (Nov. 24)
This is a historic rivalry renewed now that the Hammers have made the jump back into the top flight. Ricardo Vaz Te was an instrumental signing for Sam Allardyce last season, but how much depth the Hammers have is an open question. We’ll find out Nov. 24 at White Hart Lane.
Chelsea vs. Fulham (Nov. 28)
There’s a big rivalry between these two London clubs, but Chelsea, just down the road from its smaller rival, has dominated this fixture. This midweek game on Nov. 28 could be a clash between two of the game’s most mesmerizing forwards: American Clint Dempsey (pictured), who had a career year last season, and Fernando Torres — who didn’t. Torres is expected to lead the line out for the Blues. The intrigue here is whether or not Dempsey still will be in white. He wants to play Champions League soccer, and Fulham are nowhere near that sort of level.
Manchester City vs. Manchester United (Dec. 8)
This is it: the biggest game in the first half of the season. The defending champs against their archrivals. The Battle for Manchester. The game you cannot miss. Saturday, Dec. 8. If you need to know any more, well, you’re just not a soccer fan.