By Aidan Elder | Chief Sports Writer
The Premier League season moves closer with every piece of completely made-up transfer tittle-tattle we read.
Sadly, there’s still the guts of a month to go before the optimism of the summer begins to evaporates and realisation that your team are pretty much as bad as they were last season descends. Much of that month will be made-up with pre-season friendlies and this week it really gets into full swing as some of the big boys begin their preparations.
One of the teams garnering most attention will be Chelsea. Roberto di Matteo has been granted access to Roman Abramovich’s substantial piggy-bank and the European champions have reinforced a squad that was already looking pretty deep. Eden Hazard gets his first chance to show off his God complex as the Pensioners head stateside for a couple of weeks. New arrivals Kevin De Bruyne, Marko Marin and Brazilian teenager, Lucas Piazón will be the other unfamiliar faces looking to announce themselves as first team material. They start off in Seattle on Wednesday, before the facing the challenge of fellow money-bags, Paris Saint Germain on Saturday who probably won’t yet have Zlatan Ibrahimovic in their ranks.
Manchester United have also been active in the transfer market, but sadly for some, not yet active enough to make Anderson completely redundant. Shinji Kagawa will have to leave his porn star girlfriend at home as begin their globe-trotting. Given the issues United have had in the centre of midfield, Kagawa is likely to feature heavily. The Red Devils take on AmaZulu on Wednesday before visiting Ajax Cape Town on Saturday. The highly rated Nick Powell is also likely to get a good bit of game time in South Africa and the return of Nemanja Vidic from a bad knee ligament injury suffered last December will be of great interest to fans and ABU’s alike.
The defending Premier League champions, Manchester City lost to Al-Hilal on Friday night. They’ve got a couple more games you’d expect them to win, but possibly won’t this week. First up, they face former giants of East German football, Dynamo Dresden on Tuesday before upping the standard a bit by playing Turkish side, Besiktas.
Brendan Rodgers takes Liverpool to North America for the Reds’ tune-up. The new manager has been careful not to build expectations too high, but you’re not really a proper Liverpool fan if you don’t build up expectations to unrealistic heights over the summer months regardless. Fabio Borini has been the big signing of the close season for Liverpool and he’ll doubtless get a chance to boost his ego with some goals against Toronto FC on Saturday night.
In between aiming pot-shots at Chelsea, Andre Villas-Boas has had to start planning for life without Luka Modric at Tottenham. A trip to Stevenage is unlikely to uncover the solution, but it will be the Portuguese whippersnapper’s first chance to crouch down on the side-line as Spurs manager.
Newcastle slipped to defeat against Chemintzer on Friday night, so starting the week with a win against Monaco tonight would be nice, if not vital. They travel to take on Fenerbahce on Saturday and the big questions of their pre-seasons will be (a) can Alan Pardew continue to work his transfer market voodoo with the likes Romain Amalfitano and Gaël Bigirimana and (b) can they ward off the reported advances for Demba Ba, Yohan Cabaye and Cheick Tiote?
The Everton players will feel like they drew the short-straw in the ‘exotic locations for a pre-season tour’ lottery. They head to Scotland for games against possible-SPL side, Dundee United and actual SPL side, Motherwell. It does get better after that with a trip to the Far East to follow the week after.
Outside of the Premier League, Celtic have a glamour friendly when they take on Ajax on Saturday with the most famous club currently playing at the fourth tier of their national competition, Rangers, visit Cercle Brugge on Sunday.