Saturday, 15 August 2009

Premier League season to kick off

The new Premier League season gets under way on Saturday, with champions Manchester United aiming for a record 19th league title.

Challengers Chelsea kick off the action at 1245 BST at home to Hull.
United, targeting a fourth successive Premier League crown, welcome Birmingham back to the top flight at Old Trafford on Sunday.
The two other promoted teams, Wolves and Burnley, open against West Ham and Stoke respectively.
Liverpool begin their latest quest for an elusive first Premier League title on Sunday away to Tottenham, with the coming season marking 20 years since they were last crowned domestic champions.
Arsenal are away to Everton in Saturday's evening game, while big-spending Manchester City will look to get their challenge off to a positive start against Blackburn as they attempt to dislodge one of the traditional top four clubs.
The summer has seen lots of attention focused on Spain after Barcelona's convincing Champions League final victory over Manchester United, who then lost star player Ronaldo after he left to join a host of other "galacticos" at Real Madrid.
But Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson says he believes the English top flight is still the "toughest in Europe".
"Over the years the Premier League has become the most competitive in Europe, I have no doubt in my mind about that," he said.
"Barcelona deservedly won the European Cup last season but if you look over the last four or five years, the English teams have shared the real glory of Europe."
Ferguson has also dismissed Manchester City's prospects of breaking into the top four, despite his local rivals spending more than £90m on new signings over the summer.

Can Mark Hughes' big-money signings crash the top-four party?
But City manager Mark Hughes will be hoping the likes of Emmanuel Adebayor, Carlos Tevez and Gareth Barry can help his expensive side make a mark on the league this season.
Chelsea begin a second consecutive campaign under a new boss, with Carlo Ancelotti hoping he can get the most out of the star-studded squad he has inherited.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger starts another season without having made any big-name summer signings, but insists he has enough to mount a title bid with the players he has, despite selling Adebayor and Kolo Toure to City.
Of the three Premier League new-boys, Burnley would appear to face the biggest challenge to survive but, like Birmingham and Wolves, they will look for inspiration from last year's survivors, Stoke and Hull City.
Tony Pulis's Stoke face a difficult task in attempting to repeat last season's impressive 12th-place finish, as will Phil Brown's Hull, who stayed up at the expense of Newcastle in May.
Portsmouth are also likely to find the going tough as they await the arrival of a new owner and having lost many of their top players.
Paul Hart's team host Fulham at Fratton Park on Saturday afternoon, with Roy Hodgson looking to equal his side's excellent seventh-place finish in the last campaign, while also hoping to juggle a busy schedule in the Uefa Europa League.
Former Pompey boss Harry Redknapp continues his revolution at White Hart Lane, with Peter Crouch the latest recruit from his old club.
Martin O'Neill's Aston Villa take on Wigan, with new manager Roberto Martinez facing a challenge to maintain the club's comfortable mid-table status, particularly after the departure of winger Antonio Valencia to Man Utd.
His predecessor, Steve Bruce, would appear to have the experience to help Sunderland avoid a relegation battle and he will be aiming for a positive start away to Gary Megson's Bolton.
The action begins at 1245 BST on Saturday at Stamford Bridge.

Highlights on Match of the Day on Saturday evenings (repeated on Sunday mornings) and MOTD2 on Sunday evenings - broadcast simultaneously on the BBC Sport website (UK only).
Features, news and updates on Football Focus and Score on BBC One every Saturday.
Live match text commentary on the website and for mobiles plus all the scores and stats, news, previews, reports and reaction, as well as features, comment, photos and interaction online.
Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live, with reports from the ground at every Premier League game.
Live scores for every matchday on Ceefax and BBCi via your television.
Our 606 website for your views, plus Alan Green on the 606 phone-in on Radio 5 live on Saturday.

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