8 of the most entertaining and memorable opening-day Premier League fixtures

Nothing beats the first game of the campaign: the optimism, the excitement, the thought that maybe, just maybe, this is your team's year. Max McLean picks out some of the best curtain-raisers from down the years...

What makes a classic season-opening game? Goals, red cards and comebacks go a long way to answering that question, but historical significance - with the benefit of hindsight, of course - can be important too.

Here are eight of the most memorable opening-day Premier League matches.

Jurgen Klopp, Arsene Wenger

Liverpool travel to Arsenal this weekend - will that go down as an opening-day classic?

1) Leicester City 4-2 Sunderland (2015/16)

The Foxes ended the opening weekend in second place, which was supposed to be as good as it got

This seemed like an early relegation six-pointer at the King Power Stadium 12 months ago, with both teams having narrowly avoided the drop in 2014/15. As it turned out, only one of these teams would spend the year fighting to stay out of the bottom three.

Leicester came flying out the traps, with Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez heading home Marc Albrighton crosses before Mahrez made it 3-0 from the penalty spot with just 25 minutes gone.

Sunderland responded well in the second half and narrowed the deficit through Jermain Defoe, but Leicester regained their three-goal margin through Albrighton soon after. Steven Fletcher responded five minutes later, but Leicester held out well to pick up their first win under new manager Claudio Ranieri.

The Foxes ended the opening weekend in second place, which was supposed to be as good as it got; instead, Ranieri's men went on to make history by winning the Premier League title in remarkable fashion, with this victory proving the springboard for a truly extraordinary season.

2) Derby County 3-3 Leeds United (1996/97)

The outstanding Bowyer must have thought he'd won the game for the visitors when he sidefooted home Ian Rush's cushioned header with five minutes left on the clock

Derby County marked their promotion to the top-flight with a humdinger of a clash with Leeds United at the Baseball Ground. It was rather appropriate that both sides took a share of the spoils on the opening day: come the end of the campaign, Derby and Leeds were separated only by goal difference.

The bulk of the action took place in the second half of this fixture. A young Lee Bowyer forced an own goal out of Derby's Jacob Laursen to break the deadlock in the first quarter, but after 71 minutes the score was still just 1-0 to Leeds.

Five goals then followed in a manic 16-minute period that justified the entrance fee alone. Bowyer was again influential as he teed up Ian Harte to double Leeds' advantage from 20 yards, but Dean Sturridge's volley halved the deficit and Derby got back on level terms straight from the restart through Paul Simpson.

The outstanding Bowyer must have thought he'd won the game for the visitors when he sidefooted home Ian Rush's cushioned header with five minutes left on the clock, but Sturridge struck shortly after to ensure Derby went home with a point.

3) Liverpool 1-1 Arsenal (2010/11)

Koscielny was then sent off deep into injury time after picking up a second booking, but Arsenal were still in celebratory mood at the final whistle after rescuing a draw

What this game lacked in quality, it made up for in entertaining calamity. Joe Cole, who had been likened to Lionel Messi by Steven Gerrard after moving to Anfield that summer, was sent off for a reckless tackle on Laurent Koscielny in the first half, before David N'Gog flashed in a brilliant goal at the start of the second.

Liverpool looked set to hold on despite having to play the majority of the second half with a man fewer, but a major blunder from Pepe Reina salvaged a point for the Gunners.

The Spaniard made a mess of a cross from the left and then couldn't keep out the rebound, which cannoned off the post and hit him in the leg before rolling agonisingly over the line.

Koscielny was then sent off deep into injury time after picking up a second booking, but Arsenal were still in celebratory mood at the final whistle after rescuing a draw.

4) Aston Villa 4-2 Manchester City (2008/09)

This was a superb game in itself, featuring one of the Premier League's fastest ever hat-tricks and six second-half goals, but it also had ramifications that stretch right up until the present day

This was a superb game in itself, featuring one of the Premier League's fastest ever hat-tricks and six second-half goals, but it also had ramifications that stretch right up until the present day.

Aston Villa were a genuine force back in 2008, with Gareth Barry, Ashley Young and Gabriel Agbonlahor playing some of the best football of their careers. Manchester City, meanwhile, were experiencing the growing pains of a club awash with cash.

John Carew opened the scoring with his head shortly after the interval, before Elano levelled from the penalty spot with 25 minutes remaining.

Agbonlahor then stole the show, first volleying in from six yards out, then heading in a Barry cross and finally side-footing in a third for his seven-minute 'perfect' hat-trick.

City were busy in the transfer market for the rest of the month, something that may have been at least partly prompted by their loss at Villa Park. Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta and Robinho all signed as they tried to break into the Champions League, with City not looking back since. Villa fans, on the other hand, probably do quite a lot.

5) Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United (2004/05)

Roy Keane vs Patrick Vieira was soon replaced by Wayne Rooney vs Didier Drogba, Edwin van der Sar vs Petr Cech, and Sir Alex Ferguson vs Jose Mourinho - and this was the start

This was by no means a classic, but Chelsea's 1-0 victory over Manchester United ushered in a new Premier League rivalry. The previous six years had been dominated by Arsenal and Manchester United, but Roy Keane vs Patrick Vieira was soon replaced by Wayne Rooney vs Didier Drogba, Edwin van der Sar vs Petr Cech, and Sir Alex Ferguson vs Jose Mourinho - and this was the start.

The game itself was a cagey affair, with both managers trying to slowly work one another out. United probably shaded it but couldn't make the breakthrough, allowing Chelsea to take all three points on the way to the Premier League title.

The championship was won by one of these two sides in each of the next seven years, with both clubs looking to return the trophy to their respective cabinets in 2016/17.

6) Arsenal 2-1 Everton (2003/04)

I always admired this idea to win a championship without losing a game, because after that you cannot do much better

- Arsene Wenger

“Only you know deeply if there was any more to give,” Arsene Wenger writes in the foreword to Amy Lawrence’s Invincibles. “So I always admired this idea to win a championship without losing a game, because after that you cannot do much better.”

For Wenger, indeed, it never has got better than 2003/04, when Arsenal went undefeated throughout an entire campaign. It all started at home to Everton on the opening day, when goals from Thierry Henry and Robert Pires fired the Gunners to victory.

It wasn't all plain sailing, though: Sol Campbell was sent off early on for a foul on Thomas Gravesen, and Tomasz Radzinski made it a nervous end to the game by pulling a goal back with six minutes remaining. Arsenal held on, however, and went through the whole top-flight season without losing once.

7) Coventry City 3-2 Chelsea (1997/98)

they certainly had a very talented team, with Gianfranco Zola, Dennis Wise, Mark Hughes, Roberto Di Matteo and Gus Poyet all in their ranks

Chelsea weren't the behemoth of English football they would go on to become in 1997, but they certainly had a talented team, with Gianfranco Zola, Dennis Wise, Mark Hughes, Roberto Di Matteo and Gus Poyet all in their ranks. Coventry couldn't quite call on such a talented crop, but all they needed was Dion Dublin.

Frank Sinclair put the visitors ahead after 39 minutes, driving at the hosts' defence before cutting inside and finishing at the near post. Dublin soon equalised, nodding in from a long throw, but Tore Andre Flo restored Chelsea's lead with 70 minutes played.

Dublin wouldn't be denied, though, the striker completing a hat-trick and capping a dramatic late comeback after the Blues made two costly defensive lapses in the closing stages.

8) Arsenal 2-4 Norwich City (1992/93)

This would certainly seem like a shock result today, and things were no different when the Premier League opened for business in 1992: Arsenal had won the First Division in 1991 and would go on to claim the FA Cup and League Cup in 1992/93, while Norwich had escaped relegation by just three points the previous year.

This was a sign of things to come, however, with Norwich going on to challenge for the title - they ultimately finished third after a late-season collapse - and Arsenal slumped into mid-table.

Things started well for the Gunners, who found themselves 2-0 up at half-time courtesy of Steve Bould and Kevin Campbell, but Norwich kept their cool and came roaring back late on.

Mark Robins gave the Canaries hope as he headed home a free-kick with 20 minutes left to play, before David Phillips capitalised on a David Seaman error to level the scores. With the wind in Norwich's sales and Arsenal on the ropes, Ruel Fox edged the visitors in front with what was described by the commentator as an "enterprising finish", with Robins going on to take advantage of a Tony Adams mistake to chip Seaman from 30 yards.

Not only did this result upset the odds and boast a high number of goals, it was also an early example of a thrilling Premier League comeback.

More features every day on FFT.com