Man City kick off season at home to Southampton

By Alan Baldwin, Reuters

Posted at Jun 18 2012 07:47 PM | Updated as of Jun 19 2012 03:47 AM

LONDON - English Premier League champions Manchester City will kick off their title defence at home to promoted Southampton on Aug. 18 before facing Liverpool at Anfield the following weekend.

Alex Ferguson's Manchester United start their bid to reclaim the title at Everton and then host Fulham, while Newcastle United start out at home to currently managerless Tottenham Hotspur.

City clinched their first title in 44 years on an extraordinary last day with stoppage time goals against Queens Park Rangers and they face Norwich City at home in their final fixture on May 19 next year while United will be at West Bromwich Albion.

Roberto Di Matteo, now confirmed as permanent Chelsea boss, takes the Champions League winners on the road to Wigan Athletic before two home games against Newcastle and Reading and then a trip to west London rivals QPR.

Arsenal, who finished third last season, start with a home match at the Emirates against Sunderland.

Steve Clarke, the former Liverpool first team coach who left Anfield to replace England manager Roy Hodgson at West Brom, welcomes his previous club to the Hawthorns for their opener.

The opening fixtures published on Monday, and subject to changes due to television coverage, also have Liverpool - under the new guidance of Brendan Rodgers - at home to Arsenal for their third match of the season on Sept. 1.

Former Barcelona great Michael Laudrup's Premier League managerial debut with Welsh side Swansea City takes his club to QPR managed by Mark Hughes, the former Wales international who also played for Barcelona in the 1980s.

Promoted West Ham United and Reading are at home to Aston Villa, now managed by Paul Lambert, and Stoke City for their opening games back in the top flight.

Southampton end their seven-year absence with a baptism of fire, with games against Manchester United and Arsenal coming as their third and fourth fixtures in September.

"We might as well get it over and done with early, taking the champions on in their own backyard," former Southampton midfielder Matthew Le Tissier, who spent his entire career with the south coast club, told Sky Sports television.

"Nothing too much to worry about."

Chris Hughton, who replaced Lambert at Norwich City, takes the Canaries to Fulham for their first game. The Londoner then has games against QPR, Tottenham and West Ham.

The first Manchester derby of the season will be at City's Etihad Stadium on Dec. 8 with the return fixture at Old Trafford on April 6.

The first north London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham is on Nov. 17 while Everton will host Liverpool in the Merseyside derby at Goodison on Oct. 27. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by John O'Brien)