EPL fixtures 2015/16: CFC start title defence at home to Swans

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Chelsea will begin the defence of their Premier League title at home to Swansea.

Premier League champions Chelsea will start the defence of their title with a home game against Swansea.

Jose Mourinho’s men finished eight points ahead of the rest in 2014/15 and will begin a bid for a repeat showing against Garry Monk’s side when everything gets under way on August 8.

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Manchester United’s home game with Tottenham is the stand-out clash of the opening weekend, though, with Louis van Gaal’s men expected to be stronger in his second season in charge.

Liverpool will have an immediate chance to banish memories of their 6-1 drubbing at Stoke on the final day of last season, after being selected to go back to the Britannia on day one of the new campaign.

Manchester City start out on the road at West Brom, while Arsenal kick-off against new West Ham boss Slaven Bilic at the Emirates.

Promoted Bournemouth begin life in the top flight at home to Aston Villa, with fellow newcomers Watford and new manager Quique Sanchez Flores at Everton. Play-off winners Norwich host Crystal Palace.

Elsewhere on day one, Steve McClaren – one of three new bosses – starts out as Newcastle manager against Southampton at St James’ Park and Leicester are at home to Sunderland.

Once the opening weekend is out of the way Chelsea head to Manchester City for an early-season blockbuster, followed by clashes at West Brom and at home to Crystal Palace.

Manchester United are at Aston Villa on week two, followed by a home game with Newcastle and a trip to Swansea.

For City, Chelsea are followed by Everton (away) and Watford (home), with Arsenal taking in Crystal Palace (away), Liverpool (home) and Newcastle (away) after their opener.

The first Manchester derby of the season comes at Old Trafford on October 24, with the Etihad clash penned in for March 19. United face Chelsea in a tasty-looking festive clash on December 28 and meet them at Stamford Bridge on February 6.

McClaren’s first taste of the north-east rivalry with Sunderland will come at home on October 24, the first Merseyside derby is set for October 3 at Anfield, with November 7 the date for the first meeting between Arsenal and Tottenham.

Chelsea face Arsenal first on September 19, playing the reverse fixture at the Emirates on January 23.

Bournemouth and their 11,700-capacity stadium can look forward to plenty, but will surely have December 12 (Manchester United), February 6 (Arsenal), April 2 (Manchester City), April 16 (Liverpool) and April 23 (Chelsea) ringed on the calendar.

The season runs to May 15, with Chelsea closing at home to Leicester and will be hoping to have another comfortable title in the bag by then.

Manchester United close at home to Bournemouth – a fixture which could have implications at both ends – with Arsenal at home to Villa and Manchester City at Swansea. Liverpool go to West Brom and Everton host Norwich.

Elsewhere on the final day it will be Newcastle v Tottenham, Southampton v Crystal Palace, Stoke v West Ham and Watford v Sunderland.

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U21s: Young guns of Europe out to make a mark in Czech Republic

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Ready for action: England.

Many of the continent’s finest young stars will be on show when the 2015 UEFA European Under-21 Championship kicks off on Wednesday night.

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Although holders Spain surprisingly failed to make the cut for the prestigious eight-team biennial tournament, this should not detract from the entertainment expected to be served up in the Czech Republic during the next fortnight.

Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Juventus co-owned forward Domenico Berardi, Monaco midfielder Bernardo Silva and Tottenham striker Harry Kane are just some of the players looking to replicate their fine club form.

The hosts begin proceedings against Denmark at 20:00, with favourites Germany following them at 22:45 when they face La Roja’s play-off conquerors Serbia.

With the four semi-finalists qualifying for the 2016 Summer Olympics men’s football tournament, there is much to be played for.

Schalke starlet Max Meyer is expected to light up the Euros with the hotly-tipped Die Mannschaft, but the attacking midfielder insists his nation would not be complacent as they aim for a second success.

“I can’t say we’re favourites, but everyone is here to win the title, that’s our aim,” said the 19-year-old. “Every game is important for us. We know we have to be 100 per cent focused. We know that it’s the first of three matches, and that we absolutely must get something from it. Serbia are a good opening opponent for us – the whole squad is looking forward to it.”

A fiercely-competitive Group B swings into action tomorrow, Italy playing Sweden in Olomouc and England playing Portugal at Stadion Miroslava Valenty.

Imminent Liverpool signing Danny Ings will line up in attack for the Young Lions, following on from a breakthrough 2014/15 campaign featuring 11 Premier League goals with relegated Burnley.

Their opening opponents are packed full of talent, Porto’s Ruben Neves a standout in midfield despite being aged only 18 while winger Marcos Lopes could push for the Manchester City first team next season after excelling on loan at Ligue 1’s Lille. The sides met last November, England coming away with a 3-1 victory.

But Brighton and Hove Albion midfielder Jake Forster-Caskey expects a sterner test this time.

“I think the game will be different,” he said. “I think they had a couple of players missing and we had a few players missing as well. It is tournament football, it is not like a friendly so we’ll go into that game with some different names and different ambitions, but hopefully the same outcome.”

Excitement is building in the Czech Republic, the nation eager to cheer their young guns to success.

“Almost everywhere you can feel that a big event is going to start,” said Sparta Prague midfielder Ladislav Krejci. The top two from each pool will progress to the last-four, with the final set for June 30 in Prague’s Eden Arena.

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Inzaghi left fuming at Milan dismissal as Mihajlovic takes over

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On his way: Inzaghi.

AC Milan have appointed former Serbia boss Sinisa Mihajlovic as their new coach just hours after sacking a “bitterly disappointed” Filippo Inzaghi.

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The former Italy and Milan striker’s departure had been coming following the end of an underwhelming 10th-place finish in Serie A, 35 points behind champions Juventus, after only 13 wins last term.

Inzaghi thanked the fans for their support but couldn’t hide his anger at being shown the door.

“This completes an unforgettable experience that has enriched me from both a professional and personal point of view,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

“I thank Milan for giving me this great opportunity. I gave everything, together with my staff, working every day with passion, desire and extreme dedication. But unfortunately it was not enough and things did not go as we had all hoped.

“The bitterness and disappointment remains at not having the opportunity to continue but this is football. A hug and best of luck from my heart to all the players who have followed me in these months. Despite the problems they have always shown respect and professionalism.”

He added: “I also thank all the Rossoneri fans who, until the last moment, through the suffering were close to me.”

Mihajlovic played for Roma, Sampdoria, Lazio and Inter Milan during a 20-year senior career. Having retired while at Inter, he began his coaching career there as assistant to Roberto Mancini. He had brief spells in charge at Bologna, Catania and Fiorentina before he was appointed coach of Serbia in April 2012.

Mihajlovic joined Sampdoria in November 2013 and took them to 12th place that season, improving to seventh in the last campaign and a spot in the Europa League.

“Sinisa Mihajlovic, who has signed a two-year contract, will be the new coach of AC Milan for next season,” read a statement on the Rossoneri’s official website. “The club wish him good luck in his work and the best results.”

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