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United faces Birmingham in Premier League opener

MANCHESTER United will host promoted Birmingham in its opening match of the 2009-2010 Premier League season, while Carlo Ancelotti's first test as Chelsea manager will be Hull, which survived the drop.

The Premier League on Wednesday released fixtures for the campaign, which starts the weekend of August 15-16. The exact dates of matches will be determined by the broadcasters and European fixtures.

After hosting Birmingham, defending champion United will visit League Championship playoff winner Burnley as it adjusts to life without Cristiano Ronaldo, the world player of the year who is completing a world record 80-million pound (US$131-million) move to Real Madrid.

Alex Ferguson's team plays against one of the traditional "Big Four" for the first time on August 29 when it hosts Arsenal, with the return fixture at Emirates Stadium on January 30.

United, which won a third straight title in May to match Liverpool's record haul of 18 titles, closes the season at home to Stoke on May 9.

The Red Devils travel on October 24 to Liverpool, which was beaten to the 2008-09 title by four points, and the Premier League runners-up are at Old Trafford on March 20.

Liverpool won the fixture home and away last season.

Liverpool starts the new campaign where it finished the last one: against Tottenham. Rafa Benitez's side visits Chelsea on October 3 and hosts last season's third-placed team on May 1.

Liverpool hosts Arsenal on December 12 and the Reds go to north London on February 9.

Chelsea, which hired Ancelotti after Guus Hiddink's four-month temporary stint in charge ended with the FA Cup title, is the last of the genuine title contenders to face United on November 7.

The return fixture is in Manchester on April 3.

Arsenal will start its campaign against Everton.



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