Champions Man City facing testing start to title defence | 2014/15 Barclays Premier League

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Wednesday 18 June 2014

Man City facing testing start to title defence

Champions to face Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal in their first five matches of 2014/15 season

Manchester City will take on Liverpool in their second match of the season

Manchester City will open the defence of their Barclays Premier League title against the same opponents as last season as they face Newcastle United but while Manuel Pellegrini, the City manager, could see the match-up as a good sign for the campaign ahead, his team face a testing start with matches against three of the top-four sides in the first five fixtures of 2014/15.

Man City started last season with a 4-0 win at home to Newcastle, but this time they must travel to St James' Park on 16 August. They then host Liverpool before, in their fourth fixture, travelling to Arsenal, and hosting Chelsea the following week.

Rickie Lambert will face an emotional reunion with his former side as Liverpool host Southampton on the opening matchweek. The England striker made an emotional move to his boyhood club this summer after helping Southampton to their highest finish in the Barclays Premier League last season and he will be charged with taking on Saints at Anfield to start the campaign.

Like their cross-city rivals Manchester United also have a repeat opening-day encounter of last season. Louis van Gaal's Old Trafford tenure will begin against a Swansea City side the Red Devils beat 4-1 first time out in 2013/14, albeit they will host the Swans rather than travel to south Wales this time.

London derbies

Leicester City, who won the Championship title last season, mark the end of a 10-year absence from the top flight with a home encounter against Everton, while newly promoted Burnley are also at home, to Chelsea, who welcome Nigel Pearson's side to Stamford Bridge in their second fixture. The third promoted side, Queens Park Rangers, kick off their campaign back in the Barclays Premier League away to Hull City, while there are two London derbies on the opening weekend: Mauricio Pochettino's Tottenham Hotspur travel to West Ham United and Arsenal host Crystal Palace.

The weekend of the 27 and 28 September provides an exciting round of fixtures with both the Merseyside and north London derbies taking place at Anfield and Emirates Stadium respectively, while Arsenal will face their former captain Cesc Fabregas, at Chelsea, the following weekend. Arsenal and Liverpool go to White Hart Lane and Goodison Park respectively on the weekend of 7 and 8 February.

An action-packed schedule will take in four fixtures over 12 days of the Christmas period. Manchester United warm up for the festive season with a home match against traditional rivals Liverpool on 13 December. They then travel to Aston Villa on the weekend of 20 December before hosting Newcastle on Boxing Day and visiting Spurs on 28 December. Chelsea take on West Ham on 26 December, when Arsenal host a local derby with Queens Park Rangers, while West Ham and Arsenal will meet at the Boleyn Ground two days later.

If Manchester United and Arsenal are still in title contention come the end of the season their meeting in the penultimate matchweek promises to be a cracker at Old Trafford on the weekend of 16/17 May. That same weekend Liverpool host Crystal Palace, who delivered a blow to the Reds' title challenge with a late three-goal rally in their second-to-last match of last season. Man City close out their campaign at home to Southampton on 24 May, when Tottenham Hotspur travel to Everton and Chelsea host Sunderland.

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