The Barclays Premier League kicked into action this past Saturday, ringing in the new season with an own goal, a few wonder strikes, and a big upset. Whether you’re a newly minted observer or a seasoned fan, the start of the Premier League is one of the most exciting times on the soccer calendar. Here’s a quick and easy guide to help you get into the fledgling 2015-16 season.
1. So how does this league actually work?
Teams are awarded three points for a win, one point for a draw (no shootouts, the games can end in a tie), and zero point for a loss. The season stretches from August to May, and the team with the most points at the end is declared champion. If there’s a tie in point total, goal difference is used as the decider. The bottom three finishers are relegated to the Championship (the league below the Premier League) and three teams from the Championship come up to take their spots.
2. Who are the top dogs?
Led by its ever-grumpy manager Jose Mourinho, Chelsea stomped its way to victory in 2014-15 and finished with a measly three losses in league play. Manchester City, Arsenal, and Manchester United rounded out the top four. They’ll be competing for first place again this season. Tottenham and Liverpool knocked on the door — finishing in fifth and sixth place, respectively — and could slide up or down this year. These are the clubs you absolutely need to know about.
3. Are there any clubs with strange, very British nicknames?
Why yes, there are. Many Premier League teams have multiple, strange nicknames. Here is a quick power ranking:
1) Sunderland – The Black Cats
2) Norwich – The Canaries
3) Everton – The Toffees
4) Bournemouth – The Cherries
5) West Bromwich Albion – The Baggies
4. Give me some players to keep an eye on.
Eden Hazard — The Belgian attacking midfielder is coming off a career year. He’s electric on the ball, arguably the third-best player in the world, and at just 24-years-old isn’t even in his prime yet.
Raheem Sterling — Manchester City just paid Liverpool a cool £49 million to bring the 20-year-old midfielder aboard. Sterling was fantastic for the Reds last season, but historically speaking living up to the expectations accompanying that kind of money is easier said than done.
Harry Kane — Tottenham’s 22-year-old goal volcano scored 21 times last season, delighting Spurs fans and England diehards alike. Don’t be surprised if he makes a run at the Golden Boot (awarded to the player who scores the most goals) this season.
Bastian Schweinsteiger — After 13 seasons at Bayern Munich, the German legend decided to take his marauding midfield ways to Manchester United. He’s not getting any younger at 31, but if he stays healthy Schweinsteiger could give United some much-needed steel.
5. Which upcoming games do I absolutely need to watch?
There are plenty of exciting matches every weekend, and NBC makes all the games available across its multiple platforms. Watching smaller clubs play can be fun because it’s a great way to discover new players and find a team to root for. But here are some behemoth clashes on our “Can’t Miss” list:
August 16 — Manchester City vs. Chelsea
August 24 — Arsenal vs. Liverpool
September 12 — Manchester United vs. Liverpool
September 19 — Chelsea vs. Arsenal
October 4 — Arsenal vs. Manchester United
October 25 — Manchester United vs. Manchester City
November 7 — Arsenal vs. Tottenham
And with that, you’re good to go. Watch out for those pesky yellow cards!
Photos: Stu Forster/Getty Images (Newcastle United), Michael Regan/Getty Images (Chelsea), Julian Finney/Getty Images (Hazard), Quinn Rooney/Getty Images (Sterling), Dustin Bradford/Getty Images (Kane), Clive Brunskill/Getty Images (Schweinsteiger)