Jun 19, 2014

    Van Gaal era starts against Swansea

    ALL eyes may be on the World Cup, but the English Premier League is getting ready for its next act.

    Louis van Gaal's first competitive match as Manchester United manager will be against Swansea.

    The Premier League fixtures, released yesterday morning, gave United home advantage on the opening day of the season, scheduled for Aug 16.

    The fixture is the same as the one which greeted David Moyes a year ago, albeit in Manchester rather than Wales.

    Dutchman van Gaal, given the challenge of improving the fortunes of a team who finished seventh last season, then takes United to Sunderland and Burnley, before a home game against newly promoted QPR.

    Meanwhile, champions Manchester City will begin the defence of their title at Newcastle. Manuel Pellegrini's men, who won the league by two points from Liverpool, travel to St James' Park before facing Brendan Rodgers' men at home the following weekend.

    The first Manchester derby of the season is scheduled for Nov 1 at the Etihad Stadium, with the reverse slated for April 11.

    Liverpool start with a home game against Southampton - Ronald Koeman's first game in charge - while Chelsea, who finished third in 2013-14, travel to Burnley.

    The Clarets, who secured promotion back to the top flight under Sean Dyche, then travel to Swansea before facing United at Turf Moor.

    Championship-winning Leicester face a challenging start.

    A home match against Everton is followed by games against Chelsea and Arsenal. The Gunners start at home to Crystal Palace, while their north London rivals Tottenham - managed now by Mauricio Pochettino - face West Ham at Upton Park.

    The third match in London on the opening weekend of the season sees QPR - promoted after a play-off final win - take on beaten FA Cup finalists Hull.

    There are some appealing Boxing Day fixtures, including two London derbies.

    Arsenal are at home to QPR, while Chelsea host West Ham. Elsewhere on Dec 26, Burnley tackle Liverpool at Turf Moor, Manchester City are at West Brom, while United are at home to Newcastle.

    Spurs head to Leicester, Sunderland host Hull, Palace take on Southampton, Everton meet Stoke and Villa go to Swansea.

    Stoke is Liverpool's destination on the final week of the season, when City are at home to Southampton and United travel to Hull.

    The final round of games, taking place on Sunday, May 24, also includes Everton against Tottenham, while Leicester and QPR are set to meet in a game which could be significant at the bottom end of the table.

    Arsenal wrap up against West Brom, Burnley go to Villa, Chelsea meet Sunderland, Palace meet Swansea and Newcastle take on West Ham.