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Tough fixture list for champions Man Utd

sports Updated: Jun 16, 2008 16:55 IST

Manchester United will open the 2008/2009 Premier League season with a home match against Newcastle on August 16, but manager Alex Ferguson will be concerned over several fixture clashes.

The Red Devils, bent on a hat-trick of domestic titles and a successful defence of their continental crown, will have to face tough games after every European tie.

They will open their European expedition in the middle of visits to Liverpool and Chelsea, the first head-to-head duel between Ferguson and Luiz Felipe Scolari.

It leaves Ferguson hoping for a home start in Europe and definitely not a long away trip, which will force him to utilise his squad for matches he would prefer to target with his first-choice line-up.

Trips to Blackburn, Everton, Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham lie in wait after Champions League outings two, three, four, five and six.

Ferguson will have noted Arsenal fared little better, posting five away games on the six corresponding weekends, although the matches themselves, against the likes of Bolton, Sunderland and Middlesbrough, appear less difficult.

Arsenal do face United and Chelsea immediately after Champions League games but what makes the Old Trafford side's programme more arduous is that matches against Fulham on August 30 and Wigan on December 20 will need to be re-arranged due to their commitments in the European Super Cup and World Club Championship.

Chelsea, with four home games and two away, have done much better, even if their matches are tougher, while Liverpool, whose manager Rafael Benitez complained more than once about the number of Saturday lunchtime matches his team played last term, has also benefited from a four-two split.

Quite aside from finding themselves playing Liverpool at Anfield, almost certainly three days after England take on Croatia in Zagreb due to the complexities of the Champions League draw, they will also have minimal time to prepare for trips to Portsmouth and Aston Villa, which follow immediately after friendly dates.

Chelsea and Arsenal also have three away games straight after international fixtures, with Liverpool the winners again with three home matches.