LONDON, England (AFP) - Just a week into the new season, the Premier League will witness its first major head-to-head of the campaign when Chelsea face off against champions Manchester United on Monday.
United began their title defence with an impressive 4-1 win at Swansea City last weekend, but Chelsea's visit marks the start of a testing four-game sequence that includes matches against Liverpool and Manchester City.
New United manager David Moyes could not have asked for a sterner start to the season and in Chelsea he faces a side who are already building up a head of steam.
Chelsea won 2-0 against Hull City on manager Jose Mourinho's return to Stamford Bridge last weekend and followed that up with a gritty 2-1 success at home to Aston Villa on Wednesday, in a game brought forward due to the Europa League champions' involvement in the Uefa Super Cup.
It means the London side can open up a six-point lead over their title rivals by winning at Old Trafford, and having seen United twice left in the starting blocks by Chelsea during Mourinho's first stint at the club, United midfielder Ryan Giggs is determined not to let it happen again.
"In Mourinho's first spell at Chelsea, they obviously got off to a few good starts and we didn't manage to catch them," said the Welsh veteran.
"You always want to get off to a good start. It has obviously been well documented that we have got a tough start, but we started well with a good win at Swansea on Saturday and hopefully we can carry that on."
Although it is early in the season, Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech knows that a positive result in Manchester would give his side an early advantage in the fledgling title race.
"We've won games at Manchester United and we've lost games there. It's always tight," Cech told the Chelsea website, www.chelseafc.com.
"It's still at an early stage of the season, but any advantage you can gain over your rival is always good." On Saturday, Arsenal will hope to carry the momentum from their mid-week Champions League victory over Fenerbahce into their trip to London rivals Fulham.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger came in for heavy criticism after his side crashed to a 3-1 loss at home to Villa on the opening weekend of the season, with the north London club's lack of activity in the transfer market the subject of particular scrutiny.
However, they planted one foot in the Champions League group phase by winning 3-0 in Istanbul on Wednesday, and winger Theo Walcott says the setback against Villa is now out of their system.
"You don't want to start a season like that, but that's out of the window now," he told www.arsenal.com.
"We've forgotten about that and we're concentrating on Fulham. And if we perform like that, with that intensity, we can beat anyone." Villa, who were unfortunate not to be awarded a stoppage-time penalty in the mid-week loss to Chelsea after an apparent handball by John Terry, host Liverpool in the evening kick-off on Saturday.
Manchester City opened their campaign with a stylish 4-0 win at home to Newcastle United last Monday and they visit promoted Cardiff City on Sunday.
City dropped 24 points away from home last season, fatally undermining their title defence, and left-back Gael Clichy says Manuel Pellegrini's side must start reproducing their home form on the road.
"We did work hard during the whole pre-season and that is what the manager wants from us," he told the club website, www.mcfc.co.uk.
"Away from home it will be more difficult, but it is a good way of starting the season." Tottenham Hotspur, 1-0 victors at Crystal Palace last weekend, host Swansea City on Sunday.
Spurs appear poised to cede star forward Gareth Bale to Real Madrid, but they continue to invest heavily in their squad and are reportedly close to completing a club-record £30 million (S$60.1 million) move for Anzhi Makhachkala's Brazilian attacking midfielder Willian.