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Manchester City begins title defense at Newcastle

Newcastle, England (SportsNetwork.com) - Manchester City will begin its Premier League title defense on Sunday when it heads to St. James' Park to face Newcastle United.

The Citizens will be hoping for a repeat performance of last season's opener when they cruised past the Magpies in a 4-0 victory at the Etihad.

That victory set the tone for the Premier League season, which, despite a few ups and downs, culminated with City hoisting the trophy on the final day of the season for its second league title in three years.

City's squad remains relatively unchanged from last term as Vincent Kompany, David Silva, Sergio Aguero, Samir Nasri and Aleksander Kolarov have signed contract extensions with the club.

The Citizens have also added reinforcements by signing the likes of Fernando and Eliaquim Mangala to bolster the midfield and defense.

Newcastle made a few additions during the summer as well. The Magpies signed Siem De Jong and Remy Cabella to improve an offense that netted just 43 goals in 38 league games, while the signing of Netherlands international Daryl Janmaat should give the defense some much-needed experience.

Liverpool, which enjoyed a memorable title run last term, will hope to take the next step this season as it looks to secure its first top-flight title since 1990,

The Reds, last season's runners-up, lost star striker Luis Suarez to Barcelona but replaced the Uruguayan with a host of talented players, each capable of playing a multitude of positions.

Adam Lallana, Lazar Markovic and Emre Can have enough quality to immediately step into the starting XI while Dejan Lovren will look to improve a defensive unit that conceded 50 Premier League goals last term.

Liverpool will return to action on Sunday to host a Southampton side that has been gutted by departures.

Louis van Gaal will make his Premier League coaching debut on Saturday when his Manchester United side welcomes Swansea City to Old Trafford.

The Red Devils endured a supremely disappointing campaign under David Moyes last term, finishing the season in seventh place. But Van Gaal, after leading the Dutch national team to a third-place finish at this summer's World Cup, will be eager to right the ship and guide United back into the top-four.

Arsenal is also contending for another top-four finish. The Gunners, who retooled in the offseason by adding Alexis Sanchez and Calum Chambers, will open the new season with a home clash against Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Everton will be out to sneak into a Champions League spot after finishing fifth in the table last season. Romelu Lukaku, Leighton Baines and Ross Barkley will return to the team as the Toffees begin their season at newly- promoted Leicester City on Saturday.

Elsewhere in Saturday's Premier League slate, Tottenham will open the season at West Ham United, Sunderland will take on West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns, Stoke City will square off against Aston Villa at the Britannia and QPR will host Hull City in its first season back in the top flight.

Monday's lone fixture will see a revitalized Chelsea side head to Turf Moor to face Burnley.

The Blues enjoyed one of the better summer transfer windows of any Premier League club, landing the likes of Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas, Didier Drogba and Filipe Luis. Chelsea also recalled goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois from his loan spell at Atletico Madrid, though manager Jose Mourinho is keeping his cards close to the chest as to whether the Belgium international will displace Petr Cech.

Throw in returning stars like Oscar and Eden Hazard and it's easy to see why Chelsea is the odds-on favorite to claim the Premier League title.

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