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Wigan in wonderland

Wigan Athletic will begin their first ever season in the top flight in the most glamorous possible fashion: by hosting Premiership champions Chelsea.

Chelsea will visit the JJB Stadium on August 13 amid what promises to be a carnival atmosphere and one which manager Paul Jewell and owner Dave Whelan will no doubt savour.

Wigan, once struggling in the backwater of non-league football, will have to hit the ground running, however, in their first crack at the top flight. After entertaining Chelsea, they go to Charlton and then, just four days later, travel to Old Trafford to face Manchester United.

Chelsea may not relish the test at Wigan and it will hardly be a walk in the park either for Arsenal and United. The Gunners start at home to Newcastle while Sir Alex Ferguson’s side travel to Goodison Park and a match against fellow Champions League contenders Everton.

Shock European champions Liverpool are away to Middlesbrough while Bolton, who will be competing in the Uefa Cup for the first time, head to Aston Villa.

First division winners Sunderland kick off at home to Charlton — the side that denied them Premiership status in a thrilling play-off final at Wembley in 1998 — while West Ham, who were promoted via the play-offs, have a home game against Blackburn. — Â

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