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Page last updated at 12:06 GMT, Friday, 15 August 2008 13:06 UK

Premier League set for kick-off

Manchester United celebrate winning the Premier League last season
Manchester United won their 10th Premier League title last season

The new Premier League season begins on Saturday, kicking off nine months of entertainment and top-class action from the most exciting league in the world.

Only 97 days after Manchester United celebrated their 10th Premier League crown, the action begins again as Arsenal take on West Brom at 1245 BST.

As well as the Baggies, fellow promoted teams Stoke and Hull are in action too, against Bolton and Fulham respectively.

United and last year's runners-up Chelsea start their seasons on Sunday.

Sir Alex Ferguson's United host Kevin Keegan's Newcastle at Old Trafford, while Chelsea entertain last season's FA Cup winners Portsmouth at Stamford Bridge.

BBC Sport's Phil McNulty
United, though heavily linked with Tottenham's Dimitar Berbatov, have failed to sign anyone during the summer, while Chelsea have splashed out nearly 25m on Portuguese duo Deco and Jose Bosingwa.

United will be relieved to start the season with Cristiano Ronaldo still in their ranks after speculation linking him with Real Madrid, though he is out until September with an ankle injury.

Arsenal have added French youngster Samir Nasri and Welsh teenager Aaron Ramsey to their squad, while Liverpool have spent 20m on signing Republic of Ireland striker Robbie Keane from Tottenham.

Spurs have been big spenders themselves, signing goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes, midfielders David Bentley and Luka Modric and forward Giovani dos Santos for about 43m combined.

Scolari predicts open title race

Manchester City spent a club record 18m on Brazilian striker Jo, while Bolton (Johan Elmander, 10m), Hull (Anthony Gardner, 2.5m), Stoke (Dave Kitson, 5.5m) and Portsmouth (Peter Crouch, 11m) have all smashed their transfer records.

Hull begin their first-ever season in the top flight of English football after a 104-year wait and boss Phil Brown has been busy adding to his squad, with a further seven names joining Gardner at the KC Stadium.

Stoke, who begin their first term in the top flight for 23 years, have been more circumspect in the transfer market, with Seyi George Olofinjana and Thomas Sorensen joining Kitson as their new arrivals.

The other promoted team, West Brom, will be aiming to cement their place in the Premier League under Tony Mowbray after they were relegated in 2006.

Stoke boss Tony Pulis (left) and Hull manager Phil Brown
Stoke's Tony Pulis (left) and Hull's Phil Brown will concentrate on survival
Of last season's promoted teams, Derby and Birmingham were relegated and Sunderland finished 15th. Reading were the other team to lose their top-flight status.

But the top four looks set to be the same this time around with United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal ready to battle it out for glory.

Liverpool have not won the title since 1990 and Arsenal since 2004 and the pressure will be on their managers Rafa Benitez and Arsene Wenger to close the gap on the top two.

Chelsea, with Brazilian coach Luiz Felipe Scolari replacing Avram Grant in the summer, will be confident they have a strong enough squad to challenge on all fronts this season.

The action begins at 1245 BST on Saturday at the Emirates.

Highlights on Match of the Day on Saturday evenings (repeated on Sunday mornings) and MOTD2 on Sunday evenings - broadcast simultaneously on the BBC Sport website (UK only).

Features, news and updates on Football Focus and Score on BBC One every Saturday.

Live match text commentary on the website and for mobiles plus all the scores and stats, news, previews, reports and reaction, as well as features, comment, photos and interaction online - including Squad Selector and Player Rater.

Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live, with reports from the ground at every Premier League game - plus a daily podcast every Sunday-Friday.

Radio 5 Live's Football Player, a feed-based, personalised widget that brings 5 Live and Sport's football content to users' social networking sites and can be embedded on third party sites.

Live scores for every matchday on Ceefax and BBCi via your television.

Our 606 website for your views, plus Tim Lovejoy, Alan Green, Spoony and the returning Danny Baker on the 606 phone-ins on Radio Five Live every Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

see also
How to watch Match of the Day
08 Oct 07 |  Match of the Day
Lawro's Premier League guide
12 Aug 08 |  Premier League
Lawro's predictions
14 Aug 08 |  Football
Premier League newcomers
13 Aug 08 |  Premier League
Premier League ins and outs
12 Aug 08 |  Premier League
Curbishley cool under pressure
12 Aug 08 |  West Ham
Can Liverpool launch title tilt?
14 Aug 08 |  Football
Arsenal's waiting game
15 Aug 08 |  Arsenal

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