LONDON: The 21st season of the Barclays Premier League starts with Manchester City, still buzzing from the final-day elation of last May, begin their defence of the title by hosting Southampton at the Etihad Stadium.

Roberto Mancini’s side will be under even more pressure to deliver silverware this time around while the game represents a return to the top flight for Saints after seven years away, during which time they plummeted to the depths of League One.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s side begin their quest to regain top-dog status in Manchester with a tricky clash at Everton, though they must wait for Monday night for their debut.

Six managers will get to lead their teams out for the first time this weekend and no one will have more to prove than Andre Villas-Boas at Tottenham.

The Portuguese boss took charge of Chelsea last term, but failed to last the season, and he takes the job at White Hart Lane following in the footsteps of the hugely successful Harry Redknapp. He is not afforded an easy start either, in a tough-looking visit to Newcastle.

Elsewhere, Brendan Rodgers’ stint at Liverpool begins with a trip to West Bromwich, who will have Steve Clarke in their dugout for the first time following his close-season appointment.

Paul Lambert will look to bring better times to Aston Villa and they start at newly-promoted West Ham, while Lambert’s replacement at Norwich, Chris Hughton, takes his side to Fulham.

Michael Laudrup’s tenure at Swansea starts with a clash at QPR, Arsenal host Sunderland, Chelsea visit Wigan and Reading take on Stoke.

Last season’s top scorers

Robin van Persie (Arsenal) 30

Wayne Rooney (Man Utd) 27

Sergio Aguero (Man City) 23

Ayegbeni Yakubu (Blackburn) 17

Clint Dempsey (Fulham) 17

Last season’s clean sheets

Joe Hart (Man City) 17

Tim Krul (Newcastle) 15

Brad Friedel (Tottenham) 14

Michel Vorm (Swansea) 14

Wojciech Szczesny (Arsenal) 13


# # # #