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City begins title defense against Southampton

Manchester City will kick off its English Premier League title defense on Sunday when it welcomes Southampton to the Etihad.

Last season, the Citizens claimed their first league title in England's top flight in 44 years.

City boasts one of the most star-studded squads in the world, but it came as a surprise to many that the club has been so quiet on the transfer front this summer despite being bankrolled by the billions of the Abu Dhabi United Group.

Nevertheless, City will welcome back Carlos Tevez to the fold. The Argentine striker was a virtual outcast last season after a bust-up with manager Roberto Mancini, but he reconciled in time to help the Citizens during the title push.

With the fences mended ahead of the new season, the return of Tevez acts like a new signing, and the Argentine says he is feeling up for the new campaign.

"I am feeling very good, I did all the preseason, and the truth is I am feeling great at the moment," Tevez told the club's official website. "The preseason games went very well, I was pleased with how I played and I am looking forward to the start of the Premier League and to start playing.

"This is the best I have ever felt ahead of a new season because for the first time in four or five years I have had a full month of preseason training. This has not happened in previous years because of national team commitments, so I am feeling in very good shape."

Evidence of how the preseason has helped Tevez can be found in Sunday's FA Community Shield as the Argentine produced a stunning goal in the 59th minute to help City claim a 3-2 win over Chelsea, earning the blue-half of Manchester the first piece of silverware of the season.

Southampton, which was promoted to the Premier League by virtue of its second- place finish in the Championship last season, will be targeting safety as its primary goal this term.

Challenging City for the title will be cross-town rival Manchester United. The Red Devils finished level on points with the Citizens last season, losing the title on goal differential.

United made waves this week by announcing the signing of striker Robin van Persie from Arsenal, and it is expected that the Dutchman will be available for the club's opener at Everton on Monday.

European champion Chelsea is expected to compete for the title as well. The Blues, who have added Marko Marin, Oscar and Eden Hazard in the summer transfer window, kick off their league season Sunday with a trip to Wigan, which will be eager to stave off the threat of relegation.

Saturday's Premier League action will see a re-tooled Arsenal side host Sunderland at the Emirates, a Brendan Rodgers-led Liverpool team head to the Hawthorns to face West Bromwich and Fulham take on Norwich City at Craven Cottage.

Elsewhere on Saturday, West Ham welcomes Aston Villa to Upton Park, QPR welcomes Swansea City to Loftus Road and Reading welcomes Stoke City to the Madejski Stadium.

And in what has the potential to be one of the most entertaining fixtures of the weekend, Newcastle United and Tottenham, both of which are expected to compete for a top-four finish, meet at St. James' Park on Saturday.