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Man. City Opens Premier League Title Defense Against Southampton

Manchester City will open the defense of its English Premier League soccer title at home against newly promoted Southampton on Aug. 18.

Manchester United, the runner-up last season, will start the 2012-13 campaign at Everton, while Arsenal hosts Sunderland and manager-less Tottenham Hotspur travels to Newcastle United, according to the schedule released by the league today.

City won its first English league championship in 44 years on May 13 by scoring twice in stoppage time to beat Queens Park Rangers 3-2 and deny United a record-extending 20th title on goal difference. Next season’s first Manchester derby takes place Dec. 8 at City’s Etihad Stadium with the return game at Old Trafford scheduled for April 6.

Brendan Rodgers will begin his tenure as Liverpool manager at West Bromwich Albion, which last week hired former Reds first-team coach Steve Clarke to replace Roy Hodgson, who left to run England’s national team.

Liverpool, whose eighth-place finish last season was a factor in the firing of Rodgers’s predecessor Kenny Dalglish, faces both Manchester clubs and Arsenal, which finished third last season, in its first three home games.

Michael Laudrup, who took over from Rodgers at Swansea, faces a trip to QPR in his first match, while Aston Villa opens Paul Lambert’s managerial reign at West Ham.

Roberto di Matteo’s stint as Chelsea’s permanent manager begins with the Champions League winner visiting Wigan, and Chris Hughton’s Norwich travels to Fulham.

Manchester City hosts Norwich in the final round of matches on May 19, with United traveling to West Brom. Arsenal finishes its season at Newcastle.

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