Football: Champions to tackle Forest fire

FA Carling Premiership fixtures 1998/99
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The Independent Online
DOUBLE-WINNERS Arsenal will kick off their defence of the Premier League with a home fixture against newly-promoted Nottingham Forest at Highbury on 15 August.

But Arsene Wenger's side will then face a daunting trip to Liverpool - the one team to do the double over Arsenal last season - a week later.

Manchester United travel to North London on 19 September in an early title battle against the Gunners with the Old Trafford return on 13 February.

Alex Ferguson's men start their own campaign with the visit of Leicester who recorded a surprise 1-0 victory at Old Trafford last season.

United then face two trips to the capital - at West Ham on 22 August and then Charlton on 8 September - a full 17 days later because of the European Champions' League.

Rob Lee will personally welcome former club Charlton back to the top flight when the Addicks play Newcastle at St James' Park on 15 August.

Liverpool get their longest trek of the season out of the way on the first day when they travel to Southampton.Bryan Robson, the Middlesbrough manager, plays host to George Graham's Leeds in an intriguing opening day game.

Blackburn start with a date against Derby at Ewood Park, while Howard Kendall's Everton welcome Aston Villa to Goodison Park.

The other games see Chelsea going to Coventry, West Ham travelling to Hillsborough and Tottenham making the short trip south to Wimbledon.

With Arsenal and Manchester United the pre-season favourites, there is little to choose between both sides' end of the season fixtures.

United host Sheffield Wednesday, Aston Villa and Tottenham and travel to Leeds and Middlesbrough.

The Gunners will enjoy the same away fixtures separated by home games against Wimbledon, Derby and Villa.