It’s quite easy to signal out the title contenders in each of the top 5 European soccer leagues: Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea in the Premier League, Real Madrid & Barcelona in the La Liga, Juventus and Napoli in the Serie A, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga and PSG & Monaco in Ligue 1.
With that in mind, marking down on the calendar the “match of the season” that happens a few times each year gets rather easy, although it does make a mistake of ignoring other clubs who might become a surprising contender.
English Premier League
A “match of the season” can’t occur in August, but Chelsea and Manchester United do play each other at the Old Trafford for the first time this season on August 26, 8 days into the new season, with last season’s result being a 1-0 win for Chelsea. Next up will be the Manchester derby on September 22, with City as the hosts. Last season United won 3-2 with a Robin van Persie free kick in stoppage time. That will be followed by Chelsea hosting City on October 27. That fixture was a dull 0-0 draw last season.
The first big match between the favorites to win the title in 2014 will be on January 18, as Chelsea host Manchester United, who won 3-2 last season at Stamford Bridge in a fiery and controversial encounter. Two weeks later, on February 1, Manchester City will host Chelsea. That match ended in a 2-0 win for City last season. The last of the big clashes will be on March 1, as United host the Manchester derby, which ended in a 2-1 win for City last season at Old Trafford.
Spanish La Liga
The easiest pick in the world, as the chances of anyone but Barcelona or Real Madrid winning the title in Spain are minuscule. The last team other than the big two to be crowned champions were Valencia in 2004. The first league Clasico of the season will be held on October 26 at the Nou Camp, where the teams had a 2-2 draw last season. The second mega clash will be at the Santiago Bernabeu on March 23, a venue in which Real Madrid won 2-1 last season.
Italian Serie A
It wasn’t too tight of a title race last season, but Napoli were the closest to Juventus for most of the way and at the end. This season it seems like a two-horse race, with Napoli making some impressive additions after selling Edinson Cavani, while Juventus remain, on paper at least, looking like the strongest team in Italy. Their first match will be hosted by the champions on November 10, a match that ended in a 2-0 win for Juventus last season. The replay will be on March 30, Napoli hosting at the San Paolo, where it ended in a 1-1 draw last season.
The two teams have already met once this season, with Borussia Dortmund beating Bayern Munich 4-2 in the German Super Cup. Their first league meeting will once again be at the Signal-Iduna-Park on Novermber 23, where it ended in a 1-1 draw last season. The replay in Munich will be on April 12, five matches before the end of the season.
French Ligue 1
Monaco have so far been the biggest spenders in Europe, a status they are likely going to keep. While it might take them time to come together, if at all, there doesn’t seem to be any other team with the resources to put on a challenge and stop PSG from dominating the league for a second straight season. The first meeting between the teams will be on September 22, with PSG hosting the clash. The match in Monaco will be played on February 8.