SOMEONE has to be first into the lions' den and this year the short straw was drawn by QPR. The West Londoners will visit Old Trafford on Saturday's opening day in the knowledge that United lost only once at home all last season. That was to Chelsea who did the home and away double over the champions before paying the price at Wembley in the FA Cup final. In some respects it may be a good time to get United, who will have Eric Cantona suspended and are resting Roy Keane and Denis Irwin after their World Cup exploits. Following all the ballyhoo now things get serious for Jurgen Klinsmann. The charismatic striker leads the line for Spurs in a tricky opening match at Hillsborough against Trevor Francis' Sheffield Wednesday. The opening day schedule throws up no derby clashes and only one obvious grudge game - Crystal Palace v Liverpool at Selhurst Park. Ever since season 1989-1990 these two have had a special place in each other's spleens. That was the year Liverpool trounced the Eagles 9-0 in the league and suffered a stunning 4-3 reverse in the FA Cup semi-final - a result which presaged the Reds' subsequent decline. The other Merseyside team (no, not Tranmere), Everton, should have a new lease of life after coming within a goal of relegation last time. In the summer, manager Mike Walker added Vinny Samways to his midfield. Everton kick off at home to Aston Villa whose past season petered out to nothing after they lifted the League Cup. Still, theoretically among the traditional giants of the English game, both these sides need to show major improvement. Blackburn have a trip to the south coast where they face a Southampton side who have managed to hold on to their prized asset, Matthew Le Tissier. He preferred the quiet lifestyle in Hampshire to the glitz of a bigger city. That could be the best news Southampton get all season. They struggled to avoid the drop last time and suffered from disruption surrounding the removal of unpopular manager Ian Branfoot. Le Tissier's former strike partner at The Dell, Alan Shearer, won't be there to torment his former employers. He has already been ruled out of the opening games because of food poisoning. Le Tissier's former strike partner at The Dell is Alan Shearer, and he'll be hoping for an injury-free season to make up for lost matches and goals last year, starting with his former employers. Blackburn do have their injury worries, though. Midfield grafter David Batty is out indefinitely and 'keeper Tim Flowers has a sore arm muscle which will probably rule him out of the first few games. Two of the less glamorous clubs, Coventry and Wimbledon face off at Highfield Road. The Dons, who finished an amazing sixth place last season, begin without John Fashanu in their squad for the first time in nine years but they still have the prolific Dean Holdsworth up front. Coventry boast three World Cup veterans in Phil Babb, Roy Wegerle and newly-signed Cobi Jones. But their ace in the pack is still the gifted Zimbabwean Peter Ndlovu. Could be a lively encounter. West Ham, without Billy Bonds at the helm, start at home against notoriously bad travellers Leeds. The Hammers should trot out new buys John Moncur from Swindon and Joey Beauchamp from Oxford. But with Harry Redknapp unhappy at the way Bonds' departure was handled it's unclear whether or not the East London side will have a manager come kick-off. Arsenal should be welcoming back an old boy when Manchester City visit Highbury. Niall Quinn, sidelined for six months, is fit again for Brian Horton's side who were hard-pushed to avoid the drop last season. Horton has turned to a name from the past in young Nicky Summerbee who he signed from Swindon. Before Klinsmann there was already a German racking up goals in the Premier League. His name is Uwe Rosler and Arsenal could have their hands full with him and Carl Griffiths (or Quinn) as the City spearhead. Cup finalists Chelsea, stung by the loss of Brian Stein to yet another injury, start at home to Norwich who must still be wondering what to do with all that money they got for Chris Sutton. Play-off victors Leicester City, returning to the top flight after seven years, host Newcastle with their rich vein of attacking talent. It's a tough baptism for Brian Little's side. Manager Frank Clark, relatively successful on a shoestring at Orient, took Nottingham Forest up from the First Division at the first attempt last season. His first taste of Premier League management comes at Portman Road against an Ipswich side whose narrow escape from relegation in May looks like a dress rehearsal for the drop this time.