Premier League fixtures 2014/15: Louis van Gaal handed dream start at Manchester United… as champions Manchester City facing tough opening

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Arsenal vs Crystal Palace on August 16, as well as Liverpool vs Southampton and West Ham vs Tottenham
Chelsea travel to Burnley on the opening day
First Manchester derby is at the Etihad Stadium on November 1
Manuel Pellegrini’s Premier League champions face Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea in the opening five games
Louis van Gaal has been handed a dream start to life as Manchester United manager with a comfortable beginning to the new Barclays Premier League season.
It is in stark contrast to his predecessor David Moyes, who was handed a tough start last season when he replaced Sir Alex Ferguson.
The Holland head coach, who will take over at Old Trafford at the end of the World Cup, has a home game against Swansea City to begin with on August 16.
That is then followed up with two away fixtures at Sunderland and Burnley before a home game against Queens Park Rangers on September 13.
United don’t actually face a potential title rival until the end of October when they host Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea.
It’s a run that ought to allow Van Gaal to bed himself in at Carrington as the club attempt to arrest the chronic slide under the stewardship of Moyes last season.
The former Everton boss barely had time to settle with a difficult first few weeks in charge – losing to Manchester City and Liverpool while picking up a point against Chelsea.
Manchester City themselves will face severe tests in their title defence during the opening weeks as they play Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side host the Reds on August 23 before welcoming Chelsea to the Etihad Stadium on September 20.
It represents a tough start for the champions – who kick off away at Newcastle – in the opening five weeks, with a trip to Arsenal sandwiching the titanic home clashes.
Rickie Lambert will find himself reunited with old Southampton team-mates on the opening weekend as the Saints travel to Anfield on the opening day, while newly-promoted Burnley look to get off to a flyer against Chelsea at Turf Moor.
The Clarets are no strangers to early season shocks after Robbie Blake’s thunderous winner settled things against Manchester United in the opening weeks of the 2009/10 season.
It is a goal synonymous with their one-year stay in the top flight and, almost five years to the day, they will host United again.
Arsenal begin their season against Crystal Palace at the Emirates Stadium, with Everton travelling to Leicester City.
QPR boss Harry Redknapp – heavily indebted to Bobby Zamora’s last gasp strike against Derby County in the Championship play-off final at Wembley last month – is a Premier League manager once again and he starts with an important tussle with Hull City at Loftus Road.
While the 67-year-old will undoubtedly be looking forward to that, he may have more than half-an-eye on weekend afterwards; he takes his side to Tottenham Hotspur and White Hart Lane on August 23.
Stoke City are hoping to build on a positive finish to last year and – with all the talk of another top half finish – they will want points against an Aston Villa side that ought to look slightly different this time around first up.
Paul Lambert is looking to bring in Roy Keane as his assistant at Villa Park as the club look to have a shake-up after a run of disappointing years.
And, on paper at least, they have the opportunity to hit the ground running. After Stoke they host Newcastle and then Steve Bruce’s Hull.
West Ham United have been selling memorabilia in their club shop to remember the three wins against Spurs last time out and they have a chance to add to that with an opening day clash at Upton Park.
But there is likely to be an added dimension to the visitors this time around after Mauricio Pochettino was appointed after Tim Sherwood was unceremoniously dumped by Daniel Levy despite a number of impressive results.
West Brom’s Alan Irvine era starts in earnest at the Hawthorns as Sunderland travel to the Midlands. The former Preston and Sheffield Wednesday boss has to hit the ground running and has games away at Southampton and Swansea City in the weeks afterwards.
It wouldn’t be a Premier League season without some tasty festive fixtures and this year is no different.
Liverpool will think back to the mauling they served to Arsenal just months ago when the pair meet at Anfield on December 20, while the Reds make the short trip to Burnley on Boxing Day.
Alan Pardew’s Newcastle are at Old Trafford on the same day, which will be exactly two years on from the 4-3 thriller at the same ground. Van Gaal then has a trip to Spurs two days later before a tricky-looking assignment at Stoke City on New Year’s Day.
Although the new United boss should be able to breathe easy looking at the opening games, it does all change when April hits. Chelsea and Everton await on April 18 and 25 respectively, with a Manchester derby at home the week before that. Arsenal are the visitors on May 16.

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