Man United starts title defense against West Brom

AP, Friday 17 Jun 2011

Defending champions Manchester United to begin the new English Premier League season against West Bromwich Albion

Manchester United

Manchester United will begin its Premier League title defense with a trip to West Bromwich Albion before potentially tougher matches against Tottenham and Arsenal at home over the following two weekends.

After surpassing Liverpool’s record of 18 titles last month, United is chasing a 20th championship when the season begins on Aug. 13. It concludes on May 13, when United travels to Sunderland.

Chelsea, which was runner-up last season, will hope to have a manager by the time the team visits Stoke for its first match. The London club goes to Old Trafford to play United on Sept. 17.

In other opening-weekend matches, Arsenal is at Newcastle, Manchester City hosts Swansea—which beat Reading in the League Championship playoff final to become the first Welsh team to make it into the Premier League—and Liverpool hosts Sunderland.

In the league’s first major match, Arsenal is at home to Liverpool on the second weekend.

“It’s important to hit the ground running if you want to compete for the title,” Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard said. “You can’t afford any slip-ups early on. It’s a tough first two games but I’m really looking forward to them and I think we can get two positive results.”

Sunderland’s trip to Anfield means Jordan Henderson could make his competitive debut for Liverpool against the team that sold him for a reported 20 million pounds ($33 million).

Arsenal has been given a tough early season schedule, combined with Champions League qualification matches in mid-August after the club finished fourth in the league last season.

For the other Premier League newcomers, Queens Park Rangers opens at home against Bolton and Norwich heads to Wigan.

“The only target is to stay in the league. Seventeenth will be absolutely fine,” Norwich chief executive David McNally said. “Whatever points total is needed to finish 17th, that’s the aim.” 

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