For a lot of folks abroad and even within the UK, a Premier League travel tour is a bucket list item. Arguably the league that inspires more passion than any other in world sport, the Premier League is fairly breathtaking to behold in person, particularly given that the top clubs and venues are now steeped in decades of history and tradition. The trouble, when forming a travel plan that revolves around football, is picking the venues and match-ups to target!
There are just so many strong clubs to see, and so many great matches throughout each year, that’s it’s difficult to narrow things down. To a large extent, your specific travel dates will factor in as well; unfortunately you can’t always see three great rivalry matches in a week’s time because the schedule just doesn’t work out that way. But for general planning purposes, here are some clubs, venues, and specific pairings to target.
The Manchester Derby
Our home town derby and yet we hate both of these teams!! Given how strongly football rivalry is in the UK it’s not all that surprising given we support the rival teams of Arsenal and Liverpool! But nevertheless we have to admit that every time the Derby comes around our hometown of Manchester’s atmosphere becomes that much more tense and exciting! Fun fact though…I have actually played on the pitch at Old Trafford during a half time game in a friendly between Italy and Ireland as my dad used to be a footballer and coach!
This is the name that’s been given to any match between Manchester City and Manchester United, and naturally the cross-town powerhouses have developed quite the rivalry. A rivalry ranking by SportyGhost actually placed Man United vs. Liverpool as the most intense EPL rivalry, and historically speaking that’s certainly a fair point. Man United and Liverpool have always battled for supremacy, and for lifelong supporters this is still the most notable rivalry involving either team. But for visitors looking for a quality match, the Manchester Derby may have the most appeal these days. Man City has been near the top of the league the past several seasons, and Man United has shown glimpses of regaining its powerhouse form this season, even if recent struggles have cast manager Louis van Gaal’s job security in doubt. As an added bonus, these two play at some of the most impressive venues in the league: Man United at historic Old Trafford and Man City at state-of-the-art Etihad Stadium. Plus, if you target this match in a travel plan, you have two dates to consider in one location, making it likelier you’ll hit your goal.
It’s not a name that stands alongside the most recognisable ones in EPL venues, but on any given week, Selhurst Park may be most fun destination in the league. Named as the best venue by Bleacher Report’s atmosphere-based ratings, this is the home stadium of Crystal Palace, who were promoted to the Premiership in 2013 and have stuck around since. Located in South Norwood, London, Selhurst Park is often specifically overshadowed by greater and grander venues like the Emirates Stadium and Stamford Bridge, home to Arsenal and Chelsea, respectively. While those are certainly more prestigious clubs, it’s hard to find a more enthusiastic supporter base than the Crystal Palace fans that crowd Selhurst Park on match days. There’s just something wonderful about a London crowd that’s happy to be there instead of wholly concerned with winning the league year after year!
Any Leicester City Match
If you’re more focused on current excitement than historic venues or proven fan bases, Leicester City may just be the club to follow. They’ve cooled off slightly heading into 2016, but they’ve still been the story of the league thus far, a sort of flip-side to Chelsea’s unprecedented collapse. It’s easy to forget just how mediocre this side was a season ago, but as Betfair’s page on Leicester City reminds us in detail, they looked at one point to be destined for relegation at the end of the 2014/15 campaign. They righted the ship to finish 14th in the league but still looked like an unremarkable, bottom-half side heading into this season. Then Jamie Vardy went on a wild scoring run and Leicester jumped out to a surprise lead in the league. And here in January, they’re still fighting for the top spot. Right now, there’s nothing more interesting than taking in a Leicester match each week as the football world tunes in to see if their astonishing run continues. Not to mention their King Power Stadium has certainly become a more exciting place to see a match!
The North London Derby
For me as a life long Arsenal fan this is the big one of the season, twice a year my nerves are on edge as we take on our North London rivals! Over the years our Derby has been getting just as much attention as some of the other big games given the passions involved and the league places in jeopardy! Arsenal are widely viewed as the superior side (obviously!!), but the Spurs are often fit to compete with the top clubs in the EPL despite rarely being in the conversation at the top of the table. These matches just tend to feel like they were custom designed to produce a rivalry. The two clubs share not only a city but a specific portion of that city. Emirates Stadium and White Hart Lane, their respective homes, are situated just a few kilometres apart. Even their traditional colours, Arsenal’s bright red and Tottenham’s blue and white, form a natural clash. And more often than not, the matches live up to the billing – but of course, Arsenal naturally usually come out on top!!
The Merseyside Derby
I couldn’t mention Arsenal without bringing up the team of the other renegade – Liverpool! A giant of British football the cross city rivalry with Everton is one of the oldest in existence and one of the most unique. The games are fierce and competitive contest where red and blue clash in a non stop match of merseyside pride. But within the stands the crowd is an unusual mixture of both Liverpool and Everton fans which within the premier league is never otherwise seen. Almost every other game up and down the country requires home and away fans to be segregated to avoid violence, but for this game it is waived. Not due to a lack of emotion, but due to the fact that many families in Liverpool are a mixture of red and blue, this allows them to watch the game together due to this respectful rivalry.
The truth is that most any contest in the Premier League is worth attending, particularly if you haven’t seen a league match before. Additionally there are other top clubs, rivalries and venues not mentioned here. But if you’re looking to cross some EPL action off your travel bucket list, these are some of the best occasions to target for both a taste of history and modern drama.
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Nic is one half of the Roaming Renegades, a passionate traveller, climber, adventurer, photographer and artist who has a B.A in Fine Art and M.A in Design & Art Direction.
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